Diageo is mulling whether to enter the race to buy New Zealand-based spirits group Independent Liquor, just-drinks understands.

The UK drinks giant is reported to be on a shortlist of six groups deciding whether to launch a formal bid for Independent, the producer of RTD brands including Vodka Cruiser, Mudshake and FX.

Three other drinks heavyweights, Lion Nathan, Foster's Group and Coca-Cola Amatil, as well as two private equity groups, are also said to be on the shortlist, according to the Australian Financial Review. Firms on the list will be allowed access to Independent's books.

Analysts have valued the company, which was put up for sale last year following the death of founder Michael Erceg, at around A$1.1bn (US$829m).

A Diageo spokesperson declined to comment on whether the company was on the shortlist, as did an official at Coke Amatil.

However, the fact that Diageo is understood to be considering whether to enter the fray is notable. Diageo was said to be unlikely to be interested in Independent, as the UK company's strong position in RTDs in Australia could raise competition concerns.

Lion has made the clearest indication that it is interested in Independent with its applications to both Australia's and New Zealand's competition watchdogs for clearance for a bid, should it wish to do so.

However, a Lion spokesman declined to comment on whether the company was indeed on the shortlist for Independent.

The spokesman also refused to be drawn on claims from analysts in Australia that bidding for Independent was a crucial strategic decision for Lion.