The Swedish government has decided to sell Vin & Sprit by auction, with cash appearing to be the deciding factor.

The country's Finance Minister, Mats Odell, confirmed today (11 December) that V&S, which owns the Absolut vodka brand, will be privatised in a trade sale at some point next year.

"We have now finished the preparatory phase and will begin a more active phase. A transaction is expected to be announced next year," Odell was quoted as saying by Swedish news agency TT. "I hope it can happen fast and in an effective way but it's not the specific time that is the most important but that we get the best possible price."

Interested parties, thought to include Fortune Brands, Diageo, Pernod Ricard and Bacardi, will be contacted today, Odell noted. "It will be the one who pays the highest price and the one who after a full assessment shows that it offers the best (deal) for the Swedish households."

Odell also said that V&S would be sold whole, and not broken up. As well as Absolut, V&S also owns, among others, the Luksusowa vodka brand in Poland and Cruzan rum.

No-one was immediately available for further comment at the Swedish finance ministry when contacted by just-drinks today.