Lion Nathan reportedly faces its main opposition for Independent Liquor from private equity groups ahead of tomorrow's (6 December) deadline for the New Zealand-based spirits business.

Lion, which has long been considered the front-runner for Independent, faces competition from private equity firm CCMP Capital and a consortium of two private equity groups, Pacific Equity Partners and Nikko Principal Investments, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Other names are still in the running for Independent, however. Last week, Diageo was given the all-clear from Australia's competition watchdog to proceed with a possible bid for Independent.

Asia Pacific Breweries, the owner of New Zealand beer maker DB Breweries, has also signalled its interest in the RTD producer.

Analysts have valued Independent, which was put up for sale last year following the death of founder Michael Erceg, at around A$1.1bn (US$829m).

Independent has strong positions in the RTD markets in both Australia and New Zealand. It produces brands including Mudshake, Vodka Cruiser and FX.

Officials at Lion could not be reached for comment as just-drinks went to press.