Shares in the UK-based international wines and spirits company, Allied Domecq Plc, surged on the back of speculation that the US-based spirits group, Brown-Forman, might be considering making a bid for the company.

Shares in Allied, the second largest spirits group in the world after Diageo, were 5.6% up in early trading on Thursday. Neither company has commented on the speculation.

A bid would be expected to value Allied at around £5 billion. Some form of further consolidation in the global spirits sector or even a friendly takeover or merger involving companies competing with the giant Diageo has been predicted by analysts for some time.