The sale of Jinro could fetch as much as US$3.6bn, according to the company's creditor Goldman Sachs. The figure is significantly higher than the US$2.5bn estimated by most sources so far.

The UK's Financial Times said today (2 March) that it was believed the figure could put pressure on the bidders currently interested in buying the South Korean spirits maker.

The report said the valuation by Goldman Sachs may favour a domestic bid because Jinro has substantial domestic tax credits.

The FT quoted Jason Maynard, the Goldman Sachs managing director who is responsible for Jinro, as saying: "Over the past two years, Jinro's value has increased considerably thanks to higher cash flow and the emergence of tax credits that can be used to offset future liabilities. Our estimate is that the company should be valued at about $3.6bn."

Last month, 14 potential bidders were reported to have handed in letters of intent to buy the South Korean company.

The spirits producer, along with its sale's lead manager, Merrill Lynch, has not provided names of any of the interested groups.

However, eight local groups were reported to have said they had submitted letters of intent, including Doosan Co, CJ Corp, Hite Brewery Co, Muhak, Daesang Corp, Taihan Electric Wire Co, Lotte Group and Dongwon Enterprise Co.

Among the foreign companies thought to be interested are the UK's Allied Domecq, Japan's Kirin Brewery, US investment fund Newbridge Capital, Citigroup's private equity arm and Affinity Equity Partners, a spin-off of parent bank UBS.

Final bids are due in by the end of this month after a short list is drawn up by Jinro and due diligence conducted.

Jinro was placed in receivership in 2003, after its debts rose to KRW1.72 trillion.