Norwegian wine and spirits group Arcus is mulling a takeover bid for Sweden's V&S Group, just-drinks can reveal.

Ratos, the Sweden-based private equity group that owns Arcus, said the company could make an offer for V&S, excluding its flagship vodka brand Absolut.

Ratos senior investment manager Leif Johanson said today (11 January): "Ratos and Arcus are discussing a new strategy that would focus on the development of local brands. We are open to looking at the possibility of acquiring V&S, but our interest is only in the V&S operations and brands that exclude Absolut."

V&S is among eight state-owned Swedish companies slated for privatisation by 2011. An insider in the Swedish Finance Ministry said the plan is to privatise V&S within the next 18 months.

"Arcus would be considered a very strong contender. Constellation Brands is being linked to a possible bid on Absolut. It is reasonable to expect that V&S' privatisation process will attract a lot more global interest," the insider said.

Ratos bought Arcus, whose stable of brands includes Linie aquavit, Braastad Cognac and Vikingfjord vodka, in 2005.