France's Pernod Ricard has won an auction to buy Sweden's state-owned Vin & Spirit – the maker of Absolut vodka – in a deal worth 5.63 billion euros, including debt.
Absolut is one of the world's biggest and fastest-growing spirits brands and the centrepiece of Sweden's largest-ever push to privatise state assets.
The Swedish government confirmed the result and said Pernod would keep the company in Sweden.
Pernod Ricard, US spirits maker Fortune Brands, Bermuda-based Bacardi, and Sweden-based private equity group EQT had all been in the running to buy the maker of Absolut.
Pernod Ricard said it expected synergy benefits of 125 to 150 million euros before tax, with no impact on earnings per share in the first year after the purchase but a significantly positive effect thereafter.
Fortune is smaller than the other two spirits groups, Pernod and Bacardi, but its ten-year distribution deal in the key US vodka market for Absolut, which runs to 2012, had made it one of the favourites to win.
Absolut is the jewel in V&S's crown with sales of 10.7 million 12-bottle cases in 2007, making it the world's number fourth best-selling international spirit brand behind Diageo's Smirnoff vodka, Bacardi rum and Diageo's Johnnie Walker scotch.