Pernod Ricard has won the auction for Vin & Sprit, beating Fortune Brands to the Absolut vodka trademark.

The French company confirmed this morning (31 March) that it has secured the acquisition of Vin & Sprit from the Swedish government for a total enterprise value of EUR5.63bn (US$8.88bn), including net debt of EUR346m as of the end of last year.

The Swedish company, which owns Absolut, had been thought to be worth in the region of $6bn, while US-based Fortune Brands was also widely-tipped as the front-runner, due to its distribution relationship with V&S in the US. The two also make up two-quarters of the global marketing and distribution company, Maxxium.

The acquisition of V&S will result in the end of the Stolichnaya distribution contract which Pernod will continue to perform during a short transitional period until SPI identifies a new distributor.

Pernod also said that it will pull V&S' brands from the Maxxium distribution joint venture within two years from closing "for a low contractual cost".

"The acquisition of V&S by Pernod Ricard is a fantastic opportunity and represents our third transformational acquisition since the Seagram and Allied Domecq transactions," said
Pernod's chairman and CEO, Patrick Ricard. "Absolut is an exceptional brand. Its integration within our portfolio of premium brands combined with the strength of our worldwide distribution network paves the way for outstanding growth prospects. We become thus the co-leader of the global wine and spirits industry."

Pierre Pringuet, managing director, added: "We are eager to welcome the V&S teams into the Pernod Ricard Group. The integration will be made easier by our decentralised organisation model. The integrity of the V&S group will be maintained and it will become a new "brand-owner" and a distribution platform for the Group in Nordic countries."

Pernod noted that the purchase does not include V&S' 10% interest in Beam Global Spirits & Wine, which the company holds as part of the US distribution agreement between the two.

The transaction is set to complete "during the summer", Pernod said.

With the acquisition of V&S, Pernod Ricard said it will now become the co-leader in the global wine & spirits industry with spirits volumes of 91m cases. It added that it would hold the number one position in premium spirits with a 27% market share.