Reports from Russia have claimed that the SPI Group has opened talks with other companies to buy the Stolichnaya vodka brand, after the deadline for discussions with Pernod Ricard to buy the brand has passed.

Pernod has moved to calm the reports, however, maintaining today that "negotiations continue as before".

Russian news service Kommersant International reported yesterday (24 September) that an "established deadline" for talks between the two companies has passed, with no conclusive agreement reached. SPI Group president, Andrey Skurikhin, was cited in the report as saying that the group is now negotiating with other companies, both Russian and international, although he declined to name specific companies.

When contacted by just-drinks today, a spokesperson for Pernod highlighted the company's statement from 2005, which said: "Pernod Ricard has an exclusivity period to discuss with SPI a possible acquisition of the brand or other possible long-term partnerships." The spokesperson declined to give a date for the end of this exclusivity period.

Pernod and SPI began discussions about the French company buying the Stolichnaya brand in September 2005. Pernod handles the distribution of Stolichnaya outside of Russia.

State-owned Soyuzplodoimport has been fighting to regain control of Stolichnaya's global rights since it sold the brand to SPI for US$300,000 in 1997.