The Finnish state-owned spirits producer Altia, which last year sold a large stake in its international vodka brand Finlandia to Brown-Forman, saw its 2002 profits jump on the back of the proceeds made from the sale.

Altia saw its 2002 profits before extraordinary items reach €103.4m, an increase from that €35m made last year. However, the good news was tempered by warnings from the company that Finland's high tax system on alcohol would affect future profits.

And excluding the €71.1m it gained from the sale of a 35% stake Finlandia, profits were flat for the year. Altia still retains a 20% stake overall in Finlandia, with Brown-Forman owning the rest.

Altia called on the government to cut taxes, which would put increasing pressure on the industry with the upcoming entry of Estonia ino the EU, which could stimulate further cros-border shopping by Finns.

Speaking to the news service Reuters, chief Executive Veikko Kasurinen said he wanted to see alcohol taxes halved. "It is unfortunate for the entire Finnish alcohol industry that political decision makers' still have not taken the necessary measures concerning alcohol taxation and advertising policies," Kasurinen said.

"We are in practice competing against all global brands and companies. Finnish firms' in the industry would immediately have to be given equal rights when it comes to such competition elements," he added.