Chile's Pisco Control, which dominates production of the national spirit pisco, is in preliminary talks with a number of major international drinks businesses with the aim of attracting a strategic patner, the company's general manager Elio Elorza has confirmed.

Pisco Control hopes that a foreign partner will give the company the financial and distribution muscle to increase its exports of pisco, a popular grape-based spirit. The company is performing well locally, and is expecting total domestic sales to reach around US$22m this year, a 22% improvement on 2002.

Any agreement with a foreign partner would see Pisco Control's 3,000 co-owners ceding some of their stake in the company. The company has set itself a one-year timetable for to reform its current status as a producers' cooperative and to get a new partner on board, Elorza said.

The Chilean business press is speculating that Pisco Control is in talks with a number of major international drinks businesses, including Allied Domecq and Pernod Ricard.

Although Elorza would not be drawn on potential partners, he did confirm that the company was seeking to ally itself with one of the major industry players. "In general, businesses are tending to grow larger to take advantage of economies of scale," he said. "That is the only way to ensure long-term survival."