Pernod prepares to take Cuban-made rum to the United States
* Pernod Ricard will have to change name of its rum to "Havanista"
* Bacardi has U.S. rights to "Havana Club" name
* Pernod hopes for growth boost if embargo lifted
By Elizabeth Pineau and Dominique Vidalon
HAVANA/PARIS, May 19 (Reuters) - French drinks giant Pernod Ricard is poised to sell its Cuban-made rum in the United States once a 53-year-old trade embargo is lifted, going head-to-head with Cuban-founded Bacardi which dominates the world's biggest market.
Pernod's Havana Club will have to change its name to "Havanista" for U.S. customers, because Bacardi International, now Bermuda-based after its founders fled the communist island in the 1960s, has the U.S. rights to the "Havana Club" name.
But it is aiming more widely than the niche market made up mainly of Cuban communities based in Florida, 90 miles (145 km) from their homeland, who drink the Havana Club made by Bacardi in the U.S. Caribbean territory Puerto Rico.
"If the embargo is lifted, we could gain access to an enormous market and a substantial growth booster for the coming years," Jerome Cottin-Bizonne, CEO of Pernod Ricard's Havana Club, told Reuters at the San Jose de las Lajas distillery, where Havana Club is made in ageing cellars under a joint venture between Pernod and state-owned company Cuba Ron.
It is unclear when that might happen, but the company is beginning to benefit in a small way as relations between U.S. President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro warm. Continuación...