The auction for Vin & Sprit has begun, according to reports.

The Wall Street Journal said today (25 January) that the Swedish government has this week closed its first round of bidding for the state-owned drinks company, which owns the Absolut vodka brand.

Citing sources close to the situation, the paper said that among the bidders are Pernod Ricard and EQT Partners AB and Investor AB, the latter two having submitted a joint offer for V&S.

Speaking to just-drinks earlier this week, however, Pernod's CEO, Pierre Pringuet was unable to confirm the company's plans to acquire the Swedish company, due to a confidentiality agreement with the Swedish Government. Among the other drinks companies widely believed to be part of the bidding process are Fortune Brands, Diageo and Bacardi.

The Government plans to consider the initial bids for V&S, which is thought to be worth between US$5bn and $6.5bn, before opening a second round of bidding in six weeks time for those companies the Government has put forward to continue in the process, the paper reported.

A separate report from Sweden today claimed that seven indicative bids have been placed, starting at SEK40bn ($6.18bn), although the Government declined to comment on the claims.

A sale is expected to complete at some point in the first half of this year, despite the current turbulence in the world's stock markets.