French wine and spirit company Belvédère has been placed in judicial protection and is now exempt from debt repayment for six to 12 months.

The company was given legal permission to go into administration last Wednesday (16 July), on the grounds that it could not pay a debt of EUR375m (US$580m) in the immediate future.

Belvédère, one of the largest vodka producers in the world, is due to pay back creditor bonds (known as Floating Rate Notes) worth up to EUR375m in September, but currently lacks the finances to do so, with only a reported EUR135m of available funding.

Having borrowed a substantial sum of money to buy another French spirits company, Marie Brizard, in 2005, the company has recently been selling non-core assets, and was suspended from trading on the French stock exchange last month.

Belvédère founder Jacques Rouvroy today told French newspaper Les Echos that the company's aim was to seek another investor and maintain control of the company.

"Our aim is to go from currently selling 11m cases of vodka, to 25m in three years," Rouvroy added.