The Swedish state-owned drinks group, Vin & Sprit, saw its sales increase 35% in 2002 to SEK9,093m (US$1,085m), up from SEK6,725 a year earlier, in part thanks to acquisitions, which saw operating profits increase to SEK2,037m from SEK1,764m.

The company said in a statement that the transition into the Maxxium distribution system had been finalised and that as a consequence exports were developing well.

Sales in its flagship brand Absolut increased to SEK5,074m, despite a declining US dollar exchange rate. "The increase can be attributed both to greater volumes and to the fact that V&S now controls a larger part of the products value chain through the new distribution organisation. Other export brands have also developed positively," the company said.

Meanwhile at home, net ales for V&S brands on the Nordic markets were up slightly to SEK1,511m from SEK1,419m.

The company's CEO Peter Lagerblad said: "The V&S Group strategy has since several years been guided by an insight of the need to grow internationally, both to utilise the benefits of scale and to compete successfully with other major international players. The continuing growth in profitability shows that this strategy was right."

The company spent SEK806m on acquisitions last year and SEK383m in investments in fixed assets. V&S said that among the key developments this year would be the launch of Absolut Vanilia.