Reports suggest that both Pernod Ricard and Allied Domecq have had preliminary contacts with Eckes regarding the purchase of the German drinks group's alcoholic drinks businesses.

Eckes announced yesterday that it was moving out of the spirits market in order to focus on its fruit juices and nectars businesses. However, no actual negotiations are thought yet to be underway.

The Eckes spirits division generates annual sales in the region of €678m ($664m), with Mariacron, Chantre and Nordhaueser Korn among its principal brands in Germany. It also has spirits operations in the Czech Republic, Austria and Italy.