Allied Domecq (AD) has confirmed that is in interested in making a bid for South Korea's troubled distiller, Jinro Ltd. The Korean unit of the spirits company said today (26 October) that it is considering making a move for the distiller, which controls 55% of the Korean soju market.

"Our chief executive expressed interest in Jinro," said Yoo Ho-sung, a spokesman for Jinro Ballantines, a unit of AD. "But we have no specific plan for Jinro at the moment."

Jinro, which is thought to be worth between KRW1.5 trillion and KRW2.5 trillion (US$1.32 bln and US$2.21 bln), ran into trouble in the 1990s when it expanded into unrelated businesses such as retail and construction and racked up $1.4 bln in debts. US investment firm Goldman Sachs, which holds a third of Jinro's debt, placed the liquor distiller in court receivership in 2003 on charges of mismanagement.

Speaking to Reuters, a Jinro official in charge of selling the bankrupt company said that its lead manager Merrill Lynch has been conducting due diligence on the company, before putting it up for sale. "The due diligence will be completed in December and we will start receiving bids from next year," he told the news agency.

"If you look around Asia, there is little opportunity, and one of the biggest opportunities is Jinro in Korea and Japan," David Lucas, the head of Jinro Ballantines, was quoted as saying by the Korea Herald newspaper.

"I'm trying hard to persuade the group executive that they should take the opportunity much more seriously," he was also quoted telling reporters on a trip to Spain.

In 1999, AD took a 70% stake in Jinro's whisky operations and set up a venture, Jinro Ballantines Co. in 2000.