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Armenia: French Firm Seals Brandy Factory Takeover

  • Emil Danielyan

Yerevan, 25 May 1999 (RFE/RL) -- The Armenian government and France's Pernod Ricard group today put the final seal on the firm's acquisition of the Yerevan brandy factory in a $30 million deal.

Last year, Pernod Ricard won an international tender for the Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC) that produces the well-known Armenian cognac. The contract triggered a major controversy in Armenia, with many critics saying that the sell-off price was too low. The opposition tried, unsuccessfully, to annul it in parliament.

The formal handover of YBC to the French company, originally expected last December, was postponed for six months after the French requested more time for deliberation. Pernod cited both the economic crisis in Russia, the Armenian brandy's main market, and what it called "local statutory and administrative uncertainties."

But Pernod Ricard's president, Thierry Jacquillat, said in a statement today that "these uncertainties no longer exist." At an official ceremony in Yerevan, Jacquillat and senior Armenian officials signed a final accord on the sale of the brandy factory Earlier in the day, both the French buyers and Armenian officials were present at the ceremonial handover to Pernod of YBC's keys.

Known as the favorite drink of British wartime leader Winston Churchill, the Armenian cognac was renamed "brandy" at the insistence of the French, who jealously guard the term "cognac" for the drink produced in the French region of the same name. Last month, meeting the firm's demand, the government legally guaranteed Pernod's exclusive rights to the brand.

Pernod Ricard ranks as the world's fifth largest producer of wines and spirits, with annual sales totaling some $4 billion, most of them earned from sales outside France.