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Pernod Plans to Keep Becherovka for Now: Czech Unit CEO

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July 11 (Bloomberg) -- Pernod Ricard SA, the French company that owns the Absolute Vodka label, plans to hold on to the Czech maker of the Becherovka liqueur for now.

Pernod was seeking to sell Jan Becher - Karlovarska Becherovka AS, based in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic, for as much as $200 million, Reuters reported in April, citing unnamed people familiar with the market. The news service at the time named the Stock Spirits Group Plc as among interested investors.

“Despite speculation and rumors regarding a potential sale of the Becherovka brand, we can confirm that it has been and is staying in our portfolio,” Becherovka Chief Executive Officer Anthony Schofield said in an interview. He didn’t elaborate.

The company, which was founded in 1807 by local pharmacist Jan Becher, was hurt last fiscal year after an outbreak of tainted alcohol poisonings that killed 50 prodded the government to suspend liquor sales for two weeks in September 2012.

Pretax profit for the fiscal year ended on June 30 should be higher than the result reported two years ago, before the prohibition hurt earnings. After the ban, consumers steered away from cheaper alcoholic drinks, the main source of the poisonings, to better quality beverages, Schofield said.

Full-year pretax ending June 30, 2013 dropped 32 percent to 171 million koruna ($8.5 million). The ban cost the company about 100 million koruna, Schofield said.

‘Successful Year’

The poisonings were the worst in more than 30 years and led to two life convictions and eight others on lesser charges.

“We’ve had a very successful year, part of which is a bounce back from the prohibition, but at the same time a lot of consumers are starting to trade up to key local brands like Becherovka,” Schofield said.

The company, which was bought by Pernod in 1997, produces five liquor brands and sells Becherovka in 38 countries. The French parent’s other international brands include Jameson Irish Whiskey, Beefeater Gin and Chivas Regal.

To contact the reporter on this story: Lenka Ponikelska in Prague at lponikelska1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: James M. Gomez at jagomez@bloomberg.net Andrea Dudik

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