The French Choose Their Vodka
( Kommersant ) - The French Pernod Ricard company has been unable to reach an agreement with Yury Shefler's SPI Group on the purchase of the Stolichnaya vodka trademark by the established deadline. Two years ago, an agreement was reached for the French company to buying the distribution rights to the vodka in several countries, including the United States, for €100 million with the exclusive right to buy the trademark. SPI Group president Andrey Skurikhin said that the group is now negotiating with other companies, both Russian and international. Skurikhin declined to name those companies. Pernod Ricard retains the right of first refusal.
Pernod Ricard is one of the world's leading producers of alcoholic beverages. Its receipts in 2006 totaled $7.612 billion, with $840.2 million in net profit. Among its leading brands are Chivas Regal, Pernod, Ricard, Wyborova vodka, Havana Club Cuban rum, Beefeater and Seagram's gins, Jameson and Martell. Pernod Ricard united with Fortune Brands in 2005 to buy the British Allied Domecq.
Pernod has repeatedly expressed interest in buying the Swedish vodka brand Absolut. The current owner of the brand, Vin & Spirits, will be privatized by the end of 2008. It is unlikely to buy both Stolichnaya and Absolut. Diageo, Bacardi and Fortune Brands have also taken an interest in Absolut. The brand has been preliminarily assessed at $4.5-6 billion. Stolichnaya is estimated at $500-700 million. It is, nonetheless, a strong brand name, and has the advantage of being "real Russian" vodka. Soyuzplodoimport is disputing the right to the Stolichnaya brand name. The cost of the brand will increase significantly if Soyuzplodoimport prevails against SPI.