Prepared Foods November 29, 2004 enewsletter

Patrick Ricard, chief executive of Pernod-Ricard SA, said the group is ready to grow by acquisitions, saying he is not satisfied with the company's position as the world's third-largest drinks group in terms of sales.

"Buying small, local brands is something that works very well for us. Buying larger companies is also something we can do," Ricard said in an interview with French daily La Tribune.

"Everything can have an interest," including a tie-up with Allied Domecq, he added. "We have always said that we are ready to do everything," but the group will not pursue hostile bids.

The company will also examine potential buys in the U.S., where the company has only a 5% market share.

However, Ricard said he is not looking to invest in the California wine market, "which is expensive," but he noted that Pernod-Ricard is still absent from the U.S. tequila market.

The company also has weak positions for high-end vodka and the general liquors markets, Ricard said.

With regards to Asia, Ricard said sales in region could represent 40% of group sales in 20 years, compared with 23% currently.

He confirmed the group's target of 8% to 10% organic growth in operating profit for its core wine and spirits operations this year, and said profits will also grow on a reported basis, despite the heavy penalty from the dollar's weakness against the euro.