US-based buyers would likely be favourites in an auction for Stolichnaya, one senior analyst has told just-drinks, but any potential sale remains shrouded in secrecy.

 

"It looks like being a US deal if it's a deal at all," said the analyst today (29 July), adding it was still hard to put a figure on a sale because "no one knows exactly what is for sale".

 

His comments follow a report in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper this weekend suggesting Stolichnaya's Russian owners Soyuzplodimport (SPI Group), may make GBP1.5bn (US$2.97bn) out of a sale.

 

International distribution rights for the brand appear the most likely to be on offer after existing licence holder Pernod Ricard bought Absolut vodka owner Vin & Sprit earlier this year.

 

Pernod has to end its Stolichnaya agreement to satisfy US competition authorities, and chief executive Pierre Pringuet announced last week this would be completed within "a maximum of six months".

 

Possible buyers are thought to include Fortune Brands, Bacardi and Italy's Campari.

 

SPI minority shareholder Andrey Skurikhin was reported to have said in an interview last month that Stolichnaya was seeking a US importer, but not an international distribution partner. Stolichnaya accounts for around 5% of the US vodka market.