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News Briefs for April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012

•Suitors are said to be lining up for the chance to acquire Belvédère’s Sobieski vodka, but Polish news sources report that Brown-Forman is leading the race. The Warsaw Business Journal says that 10 investment funds and nine industry investors are competing to buy Sobieski, and that Brown-Forman is best-positioned to win the bidding, which is expected to reach €650 million ($865m). While the 3-million-case Polish vodka brand is struggling in its home market, it’s been thriving in the U.S., where its competitive price point (around $11 a 750-ml.) has propelled it to Impact “Hot Brand” status and sales of roughly 950,000 cases in 2011. Brown-Forman had no comment when contacted today by Shanken News Daily. Belvédère didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

•Diageo has retained the services of Goldman Sachs and HSBC to advise on its pursuit of Jose Cuervo Tequila, according to multiple reports. Momentum toward a deal appears to have ramped up in recent days, with unnamed sources telling Reuters last week that Diageo hoped to have a deal in place for an equity stake in Cuervo, valued around $3 billion, by summer. Diageo CEO Paul Walsh has repeatedly said he won’t renew Diageo’s current global distribution contract with Cuervo—which ends in June of 2013—without improved terms, and a route to control of the brand.

•Sotheby’s, Spectrum Wine Auctions and Acker Merrall & Condit surpassed pre-sale estimates at their recent spring auctions in Hong Kong, reporting totals of HK$63.6 million ($8.2m), HK$34.8 million ($4.5m) and HK$58.3 million ($7.5m), respectively. Held on March 31 and April 1, Sotheby’s two-day, two-collection sale was 100% sold, including a case of 1996 Château Lafite, which sold for HK$147,000 ($18,846). (The sale’s success follows Sotheby’s relatively tepid Hong Kong auction last October, when the firm failed to sell out its offering for the first time since entering the market in 2009.) Spectrum’s March 23 and 24 auction, meanwhile, was 86% sold and featured 1,800 lots, including top sales like 12 bottles of 1996 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti Richebourg for HK$148,464 ($19,120), among others. Held on March 30 and 31, Acker Merrall’s event had more than 1,000 lots and was 95% sold. The top lot was a case of 1945 Mouton Rothschild, which fetched HK$1.7 million ($218,000).

•Pernod Ricard is introducing a new flavor extension to Absolut vodka, Cherrykran, this spring. The new entry, a mix of cherry, white cranberry and sweet plum flavors, will be available nationwide May 1 selling at $21 a 750-ml. Pernod says Cherrykran mixes well with cola as well as in a variety of cocktails. It follows other recent Absolut extensions like Absolut Grapevine, a blend of white grape, dragon fruit and papaya, and Absolut Miami, a blend of passion fruit and orange blossom, both of which appeared in January.

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