Fortune Brands has refused to be drawn on speculation claiming the company has taken a partner in its bid to acquire Vin & Sprit.

The US-based company, which owns Beam Global Spirits & Wine, is widely-tipped to be the front-runner in the auction for V&S, which has been put up for sale by the Swedish government. Fortune handles the distribution of V&S's Absolut vodka brand in the US, while the two make up half of the global marketing and distribution company Maxxium.

Reports today (26 March) have suggested that Fortune has teamed up with private equity group Nordic Capital in its bid to buy the Swedish firm. Citing a source with knowledge of the matter, Reuters has reported that Fortune would acquire Absolut, with Nordic Capital taking control of the Distillers and Wines units of V&S.

"It is logical that a big player teams up with someone who can take on the remaining part (of the business), and who has an important national and Nordic connection," the source was cited as saying.

When contacted by just-drinks today, however, a spokesperson for Fortune said: "We respect the confidentiality of the process established by the Swedish government and don't plan to comment on speculation."

The second round of bidding for V&S is thought to close tomorrow, although confidentiality agreements with the Swedish government prohibit interested parties from discussing the process. As well as Fortune, the other companies thought to be in the second round are drinks companies Pernod Ricard, Bacardi and Swedish private equity group EQT.