French vodka producer Belvedere has said its presence in Western Europe and the US will be strengthened after sealing an agreement to buy spirits group Marie Brizard & Roger International.

Belvedere finance director Alexandre Payet said the company would benefit from Marie Brizard's distribution muscle in Western Europe and across the Atlantic.

"Belvedere is already strong in Eastern Europe and the challenge for us is to sell our brands in the West," Payet told just-drinks today (21 December).

"It's a good opportunity for us to open up Western markets, especially the US, for our Polish vodka."

Belvedere, which is Eastern Europe's biggest distributor of white spirits, struck a deal to buy a 69.3% stake in Marie Brizard from Duke Street Capital. Belvedere said it would pay the UK private equity group EUR141 (US$167.37) a share. The deal values Marie Brizard at around EUR320m, excluding debt.

Belvedere said it would finance the acquisition through a capital increase to which its key shareholder, Caribbean conglomerate CL Financial, would subscribe, and some debt.

CL Financial, which holds a 25.8% stake in Belvedere, said it would revise its public offer for Belvedere shares after the Marie Brizard acquisition. In September, CL Financial said it planned to launch a public offer for Belvedere shares at EUR131 a share. CL Financial aims to own more than 50% of Belvedere's capital and voting rights.

CL Financial's plan to take a majority stake in Belvedere was its first move towards its aim of becoming one of the world's top 10 spirits companies within the next three years.

The conglomerate, through its CL World Brands drinks division, boasts a portfolio including Angostura rum, Scotch whisky distiller Burn Stewart and Cognac producer Hine.

CL Financial still intended to buy a majority interest in Belvedere, Payet said, adding that the group would submit a fresh offer for Belvedere in "January or February".

Belvedere's move to buy Marie Brizard comes five months after it failed in its bid to buy Poland's biggest state-owned distiller Polmos Bialystok.

Payet said Marie Brizard was "a better acquisition" than Bialystok.

He added: "With Marie Brizard, we have a very good opportunity to assemble a portfolio of brands (while) Bialystok was only two brands and the price for Marie Brizard is less than the price for Bialystok. It's a very good opportunity."

Marie Brizard's drinks stable includes the eponymous liqueurs range and was expanded in March when the company bought French spirits group William Pitters.

Marie Brizard officials were unavailable for comment as just-drinks went to press.