By Ian Neubauer
Maxxium Australia, distributor of Absolut Vodka, said it refused to speculate on the future of its relationship with the iconic Swedish brand following an announcement by the Swedish Government of strong buyer interest for Vin & Spirit.
Vin & Spirit owns Absolut Vodka and has a 25 per cent stake in Maxxium Worldwide. “We’re not willing to comment on speculation,” said Maxxium Australia senior brand manager for Absolut, Sara Black. “All the information is available on the public record.”
The announcement by Swedish Finance Minister, Mats Odell, skirted around the dollar value of the third most popular premium spirit brand in the world. “I believe, on good grounds, that the potential buyers have good possibilities to finance a bid at a very good price,” Odell told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbaldet.
But an AP report citing Vin & Spirit CEO Bengt Baron said the company could fetch between $5.7 billion and $7.3 billion on the open market. The news agency listed liquor giants Diageo PLC, Pernod Ricard SA and Fortune Brands as potential buyers, placing Fortune as the favourite as a result of ongoing distribution deals and joint ventures with Vin & Spirit.
Absolut’s proposed sale is a contentious issue in Sweden, where the government has for more than 150 years held a tight monopoly on the sale and promotion of alcohol. Critics in the Scandinavian nation are up in arms about the prospect of selling the brand to a foreign corporation with no sense of social responsibility.
For its part, the government is unrepentant and is also going ahead with the sale of five other state assets, including property company Vasakronan, mortgage bank SBAB, and telecommunications provider Telia Sonera.
“We don’t think the state should run businesses on a competitive market,” Odell said. “The state shouldn’t make, sell or distribute vodka.”