Fortune Brands has said that it will launch a "high-return" share programme, in light of its failure to acquire Vin & Sprit.

The US-based owner of Beam Global Spirits & Wine, which had been widely considered as the front-runner to buy Vin & Sprit, today (31 March) lost out to Pernod Ricard, who has agreed to buy the Swedish owner of Absolut for US$8.88bn.

"While we had hoped to purchase Absolut at the right price, we didn't hesitate to put our shareholders' interests first," said Bruce Carbonari, Fortune's president and CEO. "We took a disciplined approach that carefully evaluated numerous factors, including growth and returns prospects, the current state of currency and capital markets, and attractive alternatives for the use of our financial resources.

"We didn't see the appropriate return for our shareholders at the announced price, so we preserved our financial flexibility to create significant value in other ways. "

In light of Pernod's success, Fortune, which sold off its US wine operations to Constellation for $885m last year, said it will commence a share repurchase programme later this year. "At our current share price, we believe we can create excellent value by repurchasing shares," Carbonari said.  The company has subsequently put in place an authorisation to repurchase up to 15m shares of common stock.

The company also said that it will initiate the repurchase of the 10% equity stake in Beam Global currently held by V&S. "This will enable us to capitalise fully on the financial performance of our highest profit business," Carbonari added.

"The operational consequences of the privatisation of V&S are very manageable, starting with significant protections in our spirits distribution joint ventures," Carbonari continued. Beam Global, which co-handles the distribution of Absolut vodka in the US with V&S, will continue in that capacity until 2012. Absolut also remains part of the Maxxium international distribution joint venture. The Maxxium agreements provide "certain protections to the partners that help ensure an orderly transition in the event of a change in control of a partner", Fortune noted.