Troubled French drinks group Belvédère is confident that it will relaunch itself before the end of the year, according to one senior executive at the company.

Wojtek Wydro, managing director for Belvédère's duty free business, told just-drinks today (20 October) that the firm intends to emerge from bankruptcy protection in France by the end of November.

"We are very confident it will be done," said Wydro, speaking at the TFWA expo in Cannes this week.

Rising debt levels took Belvédère to the brink of collapse last year and the group is being protected from creditors by the French courts. 

just-drinks reported last week, however, that judicial administrators have accepted the debt rescheduling plan of the group at a behind-closed-doors hearing. An official court hearing is scheduled for 10 November.

Duty-free sales at Belvédère are down 15% for the year so far, compared to the same period of 2008, as a result of distributors destocking amid falling consumer demand, Wydro said today.

Yesterday, official TFWA show figures said that the whole duty-free sector, including drinks and other products, is down by between 10 and 15% this year.

However, there is growing optimism that a recovery could be on the way. "Some companies are saying that they believe October this year will be better than October last year, and we think it should be," said Wydro.

He said that Belvedere has its sights set on expansion in Asia's growing duty-free market. The company is building a strong business in China, but Wydro described Vietnam as the firm's "rising star" in Asia. "This year we have gone from almost zero to 10,000 cases there," he said.

He added that the group sees little recovery in business in Russia, another key market for duty-free drinks. "We are hoping for recovery in Russia, but we don't really see it getting better," he said.