The sale of the Swedish state-owned makers of Absolut Vodka, Vin & Sprit, is progressing "according to plan", as speculation mounts that a buyer will be named in the coming weeks.

Speaking to just-drinks today (28 March), a spokesperson for the Swedish Finance Ministry said that the auction process is on target to complete by the end of June.

"We may not be able to comment on the bidders, how many there are, or the timetable," the spokesperson said." But I can say that we still believe that we have a good possibility of having a signed agreement in the first half of the year."

The second round of bidding for state-owned V&S, which is valued at around US$6bn, is thought to have closed yesterday. Fortune Brands, Pernod Ricard, Bacardi, and Investor AB together with private equity firm EQT are rumoured to have submitted binding bids.

Recent speculation has suggested that EQT has offered to let the Swedish government share any profit resulting from a subsequent sale or bourse listing of V&S in an effort to gain an edge over the other bidders. The local private equity firm has reportedly outlined to the state the benefits of keeping V&S in Swedish hands.

Earlier this week, reports claimed front-runner Fortune Brands has partnered with private equity group Nordic Capital, with Fortune taking control of V&S's Absolut vodka brand, and Nordic Capital taking control of the Distillers and Wines units of V&S, should the US firm win the bidding process.

Other reports this week have suggested that Bacardi is also looking for a similar split with Stockholm-listed private equity company Ratos in its hopes of winning the auction.

All parties involved in the bidding process have had to sign a confidentiality agreement with the Swedish government.