Seagram could take until the end of the year to complete the sale of its wine, spirits and off licence business. The Canadian group initially said it wanted to sell the business in one piece, so it was not left with a rump of unwanted products. But it is now reportedly looking at whether to start an auction of brands, which would clearly interest rivals such as Bacardi, Diageo and Pernod-Ricard. The US private equity group Hicks, Muse, Tate and Furst, which acquired Seagram's Mumm and Perrier Jouët champagnes last year, is also believed to be looking at some sort of deal. There is the prospect it may join forces with Pernod-Ricard to bid. But should Seagram opt to sell its business as a whole, Allied Domecq would remain favourite to acquire it ­ paying up to £5bn in the process. There is still a big question mark over Seagram's Oddbins off licence chain, which it values at £50m. The chain now appears likely to be sold separately from the wine and spirits business, making it more attractive to rival players Parisa and Unwins or a management team. Full financial details of the sell off will be mailed by Seagram to interested parties next month. Reports this week suggest Seagram is keen to start the process as soon as possible, because it believes there may be some tax advantages in completing the sale before its merger with Vivendi. But as The Grocer went to press on Thursday, there were unconfirmed reports that the planned merger with Vivendi and Canal-Plus may have hit the rocks. Reuters said the reports had been strongly denied by Seagram souces. {{NEWS }}