French drinks company Belvedere, has signalled its intention to submit a bid for Poland's state-owned Bialystok vodka distillery which is earmarked for privatisation.

The invitation to tender for Bialystok is likely to be launched late 2003/early 2004. Belvedere is already Poland's leading vodka producer with a 23.4% market share.

The reduction in taxes and duties on alcohol in Poland, effective October 1 2002, has led to significant growth in Poland's "official" vodka market, Belvedere said.

The group's vodka output is expected to rise from 54 million to 100m bottles in 2003.

Belvedere is also said to be eyeing the privatisation of drinks groups in Lithuania.

The group posted a €9.9m net profit last year (compared to €2m in 2001) and is forecasting a 37% hike in pre-tax turnover this year to €300m.