Jinro Ltd., South Korea's biggest distiller, has named Merrill Lynch & Co. as lead manager for its stake sale, Jinro said today (14 September).

"After reviewing 17 candidates that had submitted proposals, we chose Merrill Lynch who accepted our terms," the company said in a statement.

In July, the soju distiller named Merrill Lynch as a preferred bidder for lead manager and ABN Amro Holdings N.V. as a secondary bidder.

"Now that we have appointed the lead manager, the sale process will be speeded up but we can't pin the exact timeframe for the sale yet," said a Jinro representative.

In April, a South Korean court approved a reorganisation plan for Jinro, which is currently under court receivership, and the court said it will receive letters of intent from interested parties by end-August after selecting a lead manager.

After the bidders conduct a month-long preliminary due diligence, the court will name the preferred bidders by end-October, with the aim of closing the deal by the end of April, 2005.
According to reports in the country, food and beverage companies like Doosan Corp., which is Jinro's biggest rival in the traditional liquor market, CJ Corp., Hite Brewery Co. and Lotte Group are interested in buying Jinro.