French, U.S. rivals to acquire liquor company


Pernod Ricard, a French spirits maker, and Fortune Brands, the consumer products conglomerate whose brands include Moen faucets and Jim Beam bourbon, will announce today that they are proceeding with plans to jointly acquire Allied Domecq, the British maker of brands such as Beefeater gin, Kahlua liqueur and Perrier Jouet and Mumm champagnes.

"We are definitely going to make an offer," said Florence Taron, a spokeswoman for Pernod, adding that an announcement will be made today.

The three companies confirmed more than two weeks ago that they were in talks, and Philip Bowman, Allied's chief executive, said at the time that he would consider the acquisition if the price was right.

Under the terms of the deal, which analysts have widely expected to be valued at more than $13 billion, Pernod is expected to take control of Allied Domecq, and Fortune Brands, based in Lincolnshire, Ill., would pick up some of Allied's brands.

Analysts said that absorbing Allied would put Pernod and Fortune in a stronger position to compete against Diageo, the dominant company in the $150-billion-a-year alcoholic beverage industry.

Most analysts expect regulators to approve the deal.

"This represents one of the only remaining major consolidation opportunities that can be done without significant antitrust consideration," said Eric J. Larson, an analyst with Piper Jaffray & Co.

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