Two major bid battles hotted up yesterday.
A fight for Allied Domecq was brewing after the world's biggest winemaker confirmed it was considering a rival offer.
Constellation Brands, whose products include Hardys wine and Corona beer, said it was at the early stage of weighing up its options over a possible counter-bid to Pernod Ricard's £7.4 billion takeover agreement.
It was talking to potential partners over a deal. The move comes just days after Allied Domecq accepted a proposal from Pernod in a tie-up that would create the world's second-largest wine and spirits firm.
The firm said: " Constellation is at an early stage of evaluating its options with a number of potential partners and there is no certainty that this process will lead to an approach being made to the company."
Likely candidates for a tieup are said to include Brown-Forman, whose brands include Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels, and rum-maker Bacardi. Constellation is said to be interested in Allied's wines, which are thought to be worth more than £1 billion and include Mumm, Montana and Perrier Jouet.
The American group employs nearly 7,500 staff and sells its products in more than 60 countries across North America, South America, Europe and Australia.
It has more than 200 drinks brands including Robert Mondavi wine and Paul Masson cream liqueur. In the UK, its wholesale division supplies pubs, clubs, hotels and restaurants, and distributes Blackthorn cider.
Allied is known for key brands such as Beefeater gin, Tia Maria and Courvoisier cognac, as well as Ballantine's and Teacher's whisky.
It is thought Bacardi could be attracted by brands such as Ballantine's, while it may also be interested in taking over Allied's listing on the London stock market. Pernod has forged a transatlantic alliance with US- based Fortune Brands to fund its bid. Allied would have to pay a fee of £37 million if it accepted a rival offer within six months.
Meanwhile betting business the Tote said it might bid for Stanley Leisure's betting shops if that company's exclusive talks with current bidder William Hill break down.
Last week, William Hill said it was negotiating to buy Stanley's 600 or so betting shops for over £500 million to become Britain's biggest bookmaker.
The Tote said that as a key player in the betting sector it would be "very interested" in acquiring the Stanley estate to consolidate its own betting shop business.
"Whilst we are aware that William Hill is in an exclusive negotiation period with Stanleys, we believe it is prudent on our behalf to plan how we could make an offer, and have the access to funds, should the opportunity arise," a Tote spokesman said, adding it had talked to investment bank Lazard.
Buying Stanley's shops "would clearly ensure the Tote would have a strong distribution base both for its fixed odds business but also, critically, for horse racing pool betting products for which the Tote is the sole provider in the UK", he said.
Rank or privately-owned Coral may also be interested in the shops, analysts have said.
If William Hill completes the deal, its existing chain of 1,600 shops would move ahead of current market leader Hilton Group's Ladbrokes, which has just over 2,000.