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The head of United Spirits' parent company has calmed speculation suggesting that the Indian company is in official talks with Diageo.

Reports out of India late last week claimed that Diageo was looking to purchasing a stake in United Spirits, which is owned by Dr Vijay Mallya's UB Group. A spokesperson for Diageo confirmed to just-drinks at the time that the company was "reviewing a possible collaboration with United Spirits", but that there was "no certainty" that these discussions would result in a transaction.

Speaking exclusively to just-drinks at the TFWA World Exhibition in Cannes today (27 October), Dr Mallya also played down the speculation, but confirmed the two companies have had informal discussions of late.

"We are friends with Diageo and we keep talking about matters of mutual interest," Mallya said. "Paul [Walsh, Diageo's CEO] and I are good friends, so we keep talking about the industry, the opportunities and stuff like that.

"They've got a very strong portfolio of brands, I have a very strong route-to-market and so we talk about possibilities of cooperation," he continued. "But there's nothing concrete."

When asked about Diageo's current joint-venture in India with Radico Khaitan, Mallya said: "If and when we get to any such stage (with Diageo), then they [Diageo] have to dissolve it. You can't be in bed with two Indian companies."

Diageo and Radico Khaitan teamed up in August 2006 to form a 50:50 joint venture to "exploit the large and developing Indian made foreign liquor (IMFL) segment", the companies said at the time.


Sectors: Spirits, Wine

Companies: Diageo, The UB Group

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