United Spirits and Bacardi have both denied press speculation that they are in talks over Bacardi buying a stake in the Indian spirits company.

A report out of India earlier this week claimed that Bacardi "could be in the reckoning" if United Spirits were to proceed with a private placement of a minority stake in the company.

The report, in the Economic Times, cited Bacardi's CEO, Andreas Gembler, as saying: "We have been 'very slow' in growth markets like India, but that is changing now. The Bacardi family and myself as chief executive are committed to it." Gembler also "indicated" that Bacardi would be interested in United Spirits' potential private placement of treasury stocks with a strategic partner. "I will not exclude that," Gembler was cited as saying. "Mr (Vijay) Mallya [owner of United Spirits] is a respectable competitor who knows what he is doing."

The report, however, went on to cite Bacardi's regional president for Asia Pacific, Harold Dyrvik, as saying that "nothing is at work with United Spirits at present".

Speaking to just-drinks yesterday (8 April), a spokesperson for Bacardi said: "Mr. Gembler's comments were misinterpreted to imply that discussions are currently underway. There are no discussions, but as you know Bacardi continuously looks for good opportunities to grow its business."

United Spirits also confirmed that the report was unfounded. In a filing to the Bombay Stock Exchange yesterday, the firm said: "The company is not in conversation with anyone in this regard. The published news item is purely speculative."

Last year, United Spirits, which is the spirits unit of United Brewery Group, acquired Scotch whisky firm Whyte & Mackay for US$1.18bn after a protracted negotiation period.