Three of the UK's top spirits makers - Bacardi, Diageo and Pernod Ricard - have emerged as front-runners to buy Swedish vodka brand Absolut.
Following the Swedish government's announcement to sell off Absolut's parent - the state-owned Vin & Sprit - speculation has mounted about likely contenders for super-premium brand.
According to The Associated Press, Jenny Didong, of the unit handling the sellout, said: "We have received letters of interest from Bacardi and Pernod, and Diageo has expressed an interest orally ."
Although Pernod Ricard has declined to comment on whether the firm is likely to make an offer for V&S, managing director Pierre Pringuet said as long ago as September that he would "watch very closely what happens" if Absolut came on to the market.
Paul Walsh, Diageo's chief executive, said his company would be interested in making a bid, according to Reuters .
Absolut was launched in Sweden in 1979 with its first series of ads focusing on the bottle shape and Absolut name. In recent years Absolut's marketing strategy in the UK has moved away from its traditional focus on print to experiment with events and promotional activities.