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Mallya in for Taittinger

Published:  23 July, 2008

After the final round of binding bids to buy Taittinger were submitted last week, speculation was rife in Reims that the flambouyant Indian entrepreneur Vijay Mallya had become a surprise contender for the sixth-largest producer in Champagne.

UB Group, which Mallya chairs, had previously denied interest but it was widely rumoured last weekend that he had bid $600 million (408 million).

Sources in Champagne suggested that if the Indian group had offered such a figure, then it would be at the high end of the bid spectrum.

Financial sources close to the auction said six final bids had been submitted.

They include one from members of the Taittinger family, who wish to repurchase the Champagne house from Starwood Capital, the US group.

Starwood bought the Champagne business as part of its complicated takeover of Socit du Louvre, the Taittinger family's overall company, last July.

Mallya is one of India's most influential entrepreneurs and is known to be keen to expand internationally.

UB Group has interests ranging from the Kingfisher beer brand to pharmaceuticals, fertiliser and the Kingfisher airline.

Starwood is unlikely to announce the successful bidder until a decision is made on who will purchase Taittinger's Domaine Carneros in California.

That has been the subject of a separate auction, which closed on 25 May.

It is believed some parties have submitted bids in both auctions, and a final announcement about the successful offers is expected in early June.