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Diageo says would be interested in buying out Ketel One

Reuters) – Spirits group Diageo Plc (DGE.L) said it would consider buying out the 50 percent of premium vodka brand Ketel One it does not already own if it came on the market.

The owner of Smirnoff vodka paid $900 million in 2008 to acquire half of Ketel One and form an exclusive marketing and distribution joint venture with the brand’s Dutch founders, the Nolet Group.

“If they did decide they (Nolet) wanted to sell, we’d be interested in looking at it,” said global brand director Peter Fairbrother at a meeting with journalists ahead of an investor presentation on Wednesday.

Diageo is fuelling its push into fast-growing emerging markets through acquisitions. It bought a majority stake in Indian-owned United Spirits last month and it is in long-running talks to buy tequila maker Jose Cuervo.

The Nolet family had been making vodka in the Netherlands for 10 generations, when the Ketel One brand’s popularity with U.S. bartenders caught Diageo’s eye in 2008, as it worked to turn around declining sales growth of the white spirit.

Diageo said vodka grew 4.7 percent outside the former Soviet Union in 2012 and formed 12 percent of the net sales value of Diageo, which also sells drinks such as Johnnie Walker whisky and Guinness.

In its key U.S. market a focus on expensive celebrity endorsements from the likes of Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs and Madonna had paid off, the company said, while the launch of new Smirnoff flavours such as fluffed marshmallow and whipped cream had performed above its expectations.