The likelihood of Pernod Ricard remaining the sole bidder for Allied Domecq has reduced over the last two days.

Following a number of press reports, the UK's Takeover Panel forced the world's biggest wine company, Constellation Brands, to make its intentions towards Allied clear. And the group, which has only just recently acquired Robert Mondavi Winery, confirmed it may be interested in launching a counterbid.

"Constellation is at an early stage of evaluating its options with a number of potential partners, and there is no certainty that this process will lead to an approach being made to the company," Constellation said in a statement.

Industry observers and press believe the acquisition of Allied would be a tall order for Constellation, which is still digesting Mondavi. However, it offers the US-company the last real opportunity to enter the global premium spirits market, gives it access to Allied's distribution networks in Asia and Europe, and would fill out its wine portfolio with the acquisiton of Allied's Clos du Bois wine brand.

"It would have to be a joint bid," Mark Swartzberg, equity analyst at Legg Mason, told the UK's Financial Times.

One company that may consider joining up with Constellation is fellow American Brown-Forman.

According to the FT, the owner of Jack Daniels whiskey has hired investment bank Lazard to explore a counter bid for Allied Domecq PLC.

Meanwhile an article in the UK's Independent piled pressure on the Pernod Ricard bid by suggesting it had fallen short of what reflected Allied Domecq's value.

Michael Gifford, a fund manager at F&C Asset Management which owns 2.34% of Allied, was reported saying he would sell the Pernod shares he received for his stake as they were unsuitable for his income fund.

"I think 670p is lacking a bit. Certainly, we were not desperately excited by the price. If nothing else turns up it will probably go through by a lack of enthusiasm from anyone else.

"The reason I hold Allied Domecq shares is because I think they have a fantastic set of brands which ought to command a premium.... A number [of shareholders] have held Allied Domecq through thick and thin and are not eager to relinquish shares for a poor price," he said.