French-owned Pernod Ricard has said it is willing to purchase a 59% stake in Czech distillery Jan Becher-Karlovarska Becherovka AS, without receiving any specific guarantee from the government on trademark risk.

Pernod acquired a 30% share in the distillery in 1997, acting through the SALB investment group, with the opportunity to purchase an additional 59% stake if certain conditions were met.

However, local businessman, Zdenek Hoffmann is currently suing the Jan Becher distillery after claiming to have inherited the rights to manufacture Becherovka. Hoffmann is already marketing a rival product of the liqueur in other countries according to a report by Dow Jones.

The report claims that Pernod was not prepared to pay US$34m for a further 59% stake in the company without certain guarantees from the Czech government on the dispute.

But a local Pernod official is now ready to sign an agreement with the government as soon as he receives instruction from Pernod Ricard in Paris claims Dow Jones. Even though Jiri Rusnok, the Czech finance minister said any such agreement would be unacceptable to the government, because it would run counter to the original privatisation tender conditions extended to other bidders at the time.

During the last two weeks it has also been reported that Pernod has bought out the two original SALB investors.

Earlier the Czech government dismissed a privatisation plan saying it would not sell the 59% stake to a holding company run by Pernod Ricard.

Strategic Review 2001 Pernod Ricard