By Andrew Ross Sorkin | International Herald Tribune
The French liquor group Pernod Ricard is buying Vin & Sprit, the maker of Absolut vodka, for 55 billion kronor, or $9.24 billion, the Swedish government announced Monday.
The deal for Vin & Sprit, which was put up for sale by the Swedish government, ends one of the most hotly contested auctions for a liquor brand in years. Among the original bidders were Diageo, Bacardi and Fortune Brands.
Absolut, which started in 1979 and is best known for its advertising campaign depicting its distinctive bottle, is the third-largest spirit brand in the world, behind Smirnoff vodka and Bacardi rum. Last year, Vin & Sprit sold 88.8 million liters of Absolut vodka in 126 countries.
The transaction combines Absolut with Pernod Ricard’s stable of brands, which include Seagram’s gin, Havana Club rum, Chivas Regal Scotch, Jacob’s Creek wines and Jameson Irish whiskey. Pernod Ricard was built through a series of acquisitions, including its purchase of Allied Domecq and parts of Seagram from Vivendi in December 2000.
The sale of Vin & Sprit was promoted by Sweden’s current administration, which has been pressing for government-owned businesses to be privatized. After an exhaustive study of the company’s options, the government put Vin & Sprit up for sale in December, hiring Morgan Stanley to run the auction.