The Finnish brewer and soft drink producer Olvi plc, part of the Olvi Group, said yesterday that its 2003 total sales amounted to 97m litres, which was 4.9% less than a year earlier. The decrease, said Olvi, was mainly due to the company's choice of not engaging in price competition in the domestic soft drinks market. Operating profit was €5.2m.

Meanwhile consolidated net sales for the Olvi Group increased to €114.6m, while operating profit increased to €8.0m.

Olvi plc's soft drink sales decreased to 11.2m litres in 2003. Finnish sales accounted for 85.5m litres of the total, followed by 11.6m litres of tax-free and export sales.

The Olvi Group's net sales for 2003 totalled €114.6m, up 4.0% on a year earlier. Olvi plc's net sales were down 1.3% at €70.3m.

In a statement, the company said that as of 1 May 2004, Markku Rönkkö, the managing director of Olvi plc, will be stepping down, to take up the position of managing director at Atro Oyj, which is a consolidated group in the energy sector based in Kuopio. The board said it had initiated the process for selecting a new managing director in the end of January 2004.

Looking forward the company said the Olvi Group's earnings depend on the volume and price
developments of the overall markets in Finland as well as in the Baltic states.

"The year 2004 will bring substantial changes to the Finnish brewing industry's operating environment, and the impact on the parent company Olvi plc's business is very difficult to
estimate," it said in a statement.

"The Baltic states, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, will become members of the EU as of 1 May 2004, but this is not expected to cause any immediate major changes in the Group's business. However, the low level of alcohol duties in Estonia compared to Finland will result in substantial tourist imports of alcoholic beverages between the two countries. The Group companies have prepared for the changes in tourist imports."