Belvédère is in negotiations with several potential candidates over the sale of its Marie Brizard business, which produces William Peel Scotch whisky.

The debt-laden French drinks group was last week granted court approval to emerge from bankruptcy protection, but the group's relaunch plan involves shedding assets.

When acquired at the end of 2005, Marie Brizard was viewed as the cornerstone of Belvédère's strategy to build a world-ranking wines and spirits group.

But Lyon-based lawyer Alain Ribeyre, who is piloting the sale process of Marie Brizard on behalf of Belvédère, told just-drinks last night (16 November) that his team was currently talking to three candidates - Quartier Français, La Martiniquaise and Russian vodka group Kaufmann.

"The door remains open to other interested parties," said Ribeyre. "The choice of the retained bidder is likely to be made by the end of the year. Discussions would then take place over a six-month period to finalise a deal."