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Spirits maker Pernod Ricard eyeing US for growth

Pernod Ricard, the family-managed drinks company, hopes to become the world's leading spirits manufacturer by expanding its US operations.

The Marseilles-based company, the world's second-biggest spirits manufacturer by sales, believes the US has mature and profitable markets that are ripe for growth, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The company hopes US expansion will help it reduce its huge debt pile of €10.6 billion by 2012.  

Chief executive Pierre Pringuet said in an interview with the Financial Times, "Until we have obtained an investment-grade rating, we are not going to make acquisitions."

Pernod Ricard plans to reduce its debt by focusing on organic growth opportunities and its wine business in the US, both of which have strong markets.

Pernod Ricard was formed when two rival businesses, Pernod and Ricard, merged in 1975. The family holds 12.43% of the business and second-generation Patrick Ricard (pictured) serves as chairman.

Through numerous acquisitions over the years, including Absolute vodka, Beefeater gin and Chivas whisky, net sales of Pernod Ricard have risen from €1.6 million for the first quarter of 2009-10, to €1.8 million for the first quarter of 2010-11, a 14% increase.

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