Pernod Ricard is set to challenge Diageo as the world's number one alcoholic drinks manufacturer by clinching a £1bn deal to buy the Stolichnaya vodka brand. It would boost sales that totalled £4.5bn last year compared to Diageo's £7.2bn turnover. An annual budget of £50m has been set aside to market Stolichnaya in America, and sales could equal those of Absolut, which is also up for grabs at around £3bn. The Mail on Sunday (Financial Mail) 16/12/07 page 1