Pernod Ricard has moved again to quell speculation that its talks with Soyuzplodoimport over Stolichnaya vodka are "a few weeks" from reaching a conclusion.

In May, Pernod and the Russian state-owned company opened discussions to settle their dispute.

Soyuzplodoimport owns the Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya and other vodka brands in Russia. Pernod and Yury Shefler, a major shareholder of SPI Group (also known, confusingly, as Soyuzplodimport), own the rights to distribute the Stolichnaya brand in countries outside Russia. Pernod joined forces with SPI after the Allied Domecq takeover last year.

Soyuzplodoimport has been in dispute with SPI over the rights to Stolichnaya since 2002.

In 2003, the World Intellectual Property Organisation ruled that the Stolichnaya brand, as well as some other famous brands, should belong to Soyuzplodoimport, and not to SPI.

Soyuzplodoimport sold its rights to the brands to SPI in 1997. The vodka trademarks were sold for US$300,000 at the time. The market price for just two brands, Stolichnaya and Moskovskaya, was then estimated at US$400m.

Citing the head of Pernod's US division yesterday (11 December), reports claimed that Pernod may acquire the vodka brand as soon as "a few weeks" from now.

When contacted by just-drinks today, however, a spokesperson for Pernod dismissed the report. "There is nothing new to add to our statement released in May," the spokesperson said.

Pernod and Soyuzplodoimport signed a confidentiality agreement in May, meaning that no announcements will be made until negotiations are concluded.