Diageo will next week register its interest in Independent Liquor with Australia's competition watchdog, just-drinks understands.

The UK drinks giant plans to apply for clearance from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to enter the race to buy the New Zealand-based spirits group, according to sources familiar with the situation.

The application to the ACCC is believed to be necessary before a potential suitor is granted access to conduct due diligence on Independent, the producer of RTD brands including Vodka Cruiser, Mudshake and FX.

Earlier this week, Diageo was understood to be mulling whether to enter the race for Independent, which was put up for sale last year following the death of founder Michael Erceg. Analysts have valued the company at around A$1.1bn (US$829m).

Diageo's plans to lodge an application with the ACCC is confirmation of its interest, something that had been deemed unlikely, as the UK company's strong position in RTDs in Australia could raise competition concerns.

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.

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.

A Foster's spokesman told just-drinks from Melbourne that the company would "look at any player that operates in our major markets".

However, Foster's is understood to not be among the front-runners for Independent, which controls well over 60% of the RTD sector in New Zealand.