A senior Pernod Ricard executive says the group has just renewed contracts with the Cuban authorities for the exclusive distribution of Havana Club rum.

In 1994, Pernod, in association with the Fidel Castro-led Communist regime, set up 50:50 joint venture company, Havana Club International, to handle the worldwide distribution of the beverage.

In an interview in French business newspaper, Les Echos, the managing director of Havana Club International, Alexandre Sirech, said the contracts has been extended for further 10 years.

Over the next decade, the aim is to propel Havana Club into the Top 15 world brands for premium spirits having already gained  a place in the Top 50 in 2003.

This would be achieved through a doubling of annual sales (which should exceed two million cases in 2004) and would follow almost quadruple growth in the previous decade - an ambitious goal given that the brand is currently barred from the US, the world's biggest market for premium rum.

Last month, Pernod Ricard claimed a victory before the US patent office in its long-running legal battle with Bacardi-Martini over the Havana Club brand. However, Bacardi-Martini is set to appeal.