United Spirits, the Indian spirits giant owned by billionaire Vijay Mallya, is closing on a deal to raise fresh finance from outside investors as part of the firm's deleveraging plan, just-drinks understands.

United Spirits is seeking to raise up to US$300m from private investors to help pay down debt, according to Indian newspaper reports and backed up by a source close to the company, who spoke with just-drinks recently.

A United Spirits spokesperson told just-drinks today (19 August) that the group will not comment on specifics of negotiations, but  added: "There will be more clarity in the next few weeks."

United Spirits is seeking to raise finance in order to reduce debt, largely accrued by the group's US$1.18bn buyout of Scotch whisky maker Whyte & Mackay in 2007.

A source familiar with the situation previously told just-drinks that potential investors included some of the world's top private equity firms.

Private equity groups Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, acquirer of A-B InBev's Oriental Brewery in South Korea, and Capital International were today named by India's Business Standard newspaper as frontrunners to secure a deal.

In June, United Spirits raised INR11bn (US$225m) via share sales to meet a September payment on its US$625m loan taken out to fund the Whyte & Mackay buy.

Debt issues aside, United Spirits has continued to grow strongly during the global economic downturn. Net sales for the three months to the end of June rose by 22% to INR12.4bn, while net profits rose by 52% to INR1.77bn, said the group, which controls two thirds of India's spirits market. 

Additional reporting by just-drinks freelancer Kevin Jacobs.