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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pernod Closes In on Stolichnaya Buy

bloombergPernod considers the acquisition of Stolichnaya, the third-most-popular vodka in the United States, a priority.
PARIS -- Pernod Ricard may acquire the Stolichnaya vodka brand as soon as "a few weeks" from now, the head of its U.S. division said.

Paris-based Pernod, the world's No. 2 liquor producer, acquired distribution rights through 2010 for Stolichnaya, owned by Russia's SPI Group, when it purchased rival Allied Domecq for $13 billion last year.

Managing director Pierre Pringuet has called the acquisition of Stolichnaya a company priority, and started talks with SPI about the brand's future in May.

"We are relatively confident we will be able to acquire the ownership of Stolichnaya," Alain Barbet, president of Pernod Ricard USA, said Friday. "It will probably take a few weeks or months."

Pernod wants to gain a foothold in the U.S. vodka market, which is expected to grow by one-third over the next four years, to about $16.7 billion in 2010, according to Euromonitor, a market-research company.

Stolichnaya is the third-most-popular vodka in the United States after Diageo's Smirnoff and Sweden's Absolut, controlled by state-owned V&S Vin & Sprit. Pernod's Pringuet has said his company will also bid for Absolut, which might come up for sale next year as Sweden's new government plans asset sales.

Pernod is facing a lawsuit brought by Russian billionaire Rustam Tariko, owner of Russky Standart, who claims Stolichnaya is not a Russian vodka because it is filtered, bottled and labeled in a Latvian plant after being distilled in Russia. Pernod called Tariko's assertions an "advertising strategy" aimed at boosting U.S. sales of Imperia, his own brand.