Diageo CEO Paul Walsh has affirmed the group's desire to increase its presence in India, but said that talks with Vijay Mallya's United Spirits remain in the preliminary stages.

Walsh, speaking at Diageo's first half results conference yesterday (12 February), said that the drinks giant has a "desire to increase our footprint in India".

Commenting on the firm's much-publicised talks with United Spirits, he said that negotiations remain "very preliminary".

Press reports out of India today (13 February) have claimed that United Spirits owner Mallya would be prepared to offer Diageo a seat on the company's board, in addition to a 15% stake.

Corporate law in India currently states that any firm acquiring a 15% stake or more in another company must make an offer to acquire a further 20% stake in that company.

Diageo's Walsh told just-drinks yesterday that the firm has the money to make acquisitions in drinks this year, but that any move "depends on the opportunities that arise".

Diageo already has a joint venture in India with Radico Khaitan, which holds a 10% share of the country's spirits market. United Spirits, which is part of Mallya's UB Group, is the largest player, with an estimated spirits market share of more than 60%. It is likely that Diageo would have to end its venture with Khaitan, should it agree a deal with United Spirits.