India's UB Group has said it expects to at least secure a distribution and licencing deal with UK distiller Whyte & Mackay.

The drinks giant, owned by Indian entrepreneur Dr. Vijay Mallya, told just-drinks today (9 October) that it is in talks with Whyte & Mackay.

"We are in discussions - most likely on the supply of liquor and the franchising of some brands," UB's president and CFO Ravi Nedungadi told just-drinks. "That is the minimum we expect - if we get more than that, that would be good."

Nedungadi refused to comment further on the discussions or on reports that UB had bid GBP400m (US$747m) for Whyte & Mackay.

At the weekend, Whyte & Mackay's chairman and chief executive, Vivian Imerman, dismissed reports that the company had been sold to UB.

Imerman said: "We are in the middle of a GBP100m investment programme and have great confidence in the business to perform well over the next five years. We are dedicated in our vision to become an agile international spirits business with our core brands Whyte & Mackay, Vladivar, Jura, The Dalmore and Glayva."

Whyte & Mackay has seen rising interest in the company after a revamp of its brands led to rising sales.

The company had received several offers for its Invergordon Distillers business, which mainly produces own-label Scotch, after putting the business up for sale last year.

However, the rise of own-label prices in the UK, combined with the rising demand for aged Scotch and the growth of emerging markets in Asia and Latin America, led Whyte & Mackay to decide to hang on to the business.

Whyte & Mackay officials could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.

UB is looking to bolster its presence outside of India, where it dominates the country's beer and spirits markets.

In July, UB made its first direct investment outside Asia with the acquisition of Loire wine producer Bouvet-Ladubay for an undisclosed sum.

The company has also been linked with a bid for an unnamed winery in South Africa and is reported to be interested in New Zealand's Independent Liquor.