Vin & Sprit has declined to comment on claims that it would prefer Swedish investment company Investor as its future owner.

Esmerk Swedish News said yesterday (28 January) that the Swedish state-owned drinks company, which owns the Absolut vodka brand, would "prefer" Investor over other bidders such as Fortune Brands due to the latter "lacking the necessary expertise in branding".

When contacted by just-drinks, however, a spokesperson for V&S would not be drawn on the speculation. "We have no comment to make on this matter," the spokesperson said. "That would be a matter for our owner, the Swedisn government."

No one at the Swedish finance ministry was immediately available for comment.

Investor, which is in the running with its joint offer with private equity firm EQT, is run by the Wallenbergs who are also major holders in companies such as Ericsson, SAAB and Electrolux. Investor and EQT's joint bid is among other bidders including Fortune Brands, Pernod Ricard, Diageo and Bacardi.

Investor reportedly had a rough third quarter last year, posting a loss of US$1.21bn, attributed to the liquidity problem in the global credit market.

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.

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.