Pernod Ricard has sold its Wild Turkey Bourbon brand to Gruppo Campari.

The France-based wine and spirits company, which has been divesting minor brands of late to help pay off its purchase of Vin & Sprit last year, said today (8 April) that it has offloaded the American straight Bourbon brand, along with American Honey liqueur, distillery facilities in Kentucky and related assets, together with aged bulk Bourbon inventory, to Campari for US$575m (EUR433m).

The transaction, which marks the largest acquisition in Campari's history, is subject to antitrust approvals and is expected to close in the second quarter of this year.

"The transaction demonstrates our commitment, in line with our strategy, of continuing growth in the profitable US spirits market," said Campari's CEO, Bob Kunze-Concewitz. "In addition, Campari expands its presence in key international markets such as Australia, where the acquisition provides the foundation for establishing its own distribution platform, and Japan."

Pernod will continue to distribute the Wild Turkey brands in Australia and New Zealand, for a transitory period, and in Japan, pursuant to distribution agreements with Campari.

"The sale of Wild Turkey is an important part of the EUR1bn disposal plan of non strategic assets communicated after the Vin & Sprit acquisition," Pernod said.

"With the disposals of Glendronach, Cruzan, Bisquit, as well as of the Serkova and Vin & Sprit brands sold at the request of the competition authorities, the overall disposal gross proceeds reach approximately EUR577m as of today. The group confirms its intention to complete this plan within 12 months."

At the same time as announcing the divestment, Pernod lowered its target for organic growth from recurring operations in its current fiscal year. The company is now targeting growth of between 3% and 5% for 2008/2009, down from the previous forecast of between 5% and 8% growth.

"Growth (in Q3 of the current financial year) was adversely impacted by one-off technical items: Chinese New Year's Eve being later in the year, increases in excise duties and a larger than anticipated de-stocking from our wholesalers and distributors," Pernod warned.

"As a result, organic growth should be negative at around -13% for Q3 2008/09."

Pernod also said today that it intends to raise around EUR1bn in equity capital by way of a rights issue, with proceeds set to pay down debt.

"The rights issue will allow for quicker decrease of the group's net debt /EBITDA ratio, which will further reduce the syndicated loan margins," the company said. The rights issue is expected to launch "as soon as possible", with a group of banks in the process of advising Pernod.

Finally, the company said it plans to split this year's dividend payment to shareholders, between a cash payment and new shares.

A cash dividend of EUR0.50 per share, to be paid in July,  has been proposed by Pernod's board. The remainder will be paid in the form of a free distribution of new shares issued through the capitalisation of reserves, which will be proposed at the next annual shareholders' meeting.