Rosspirtprom, Russia's state-owned spirits monopoly, plans to create two to three national brands and turn them into worldwide trademarks, general director Sergei Zivenko told the Russian press.

Established in May 2000, Rosspirtprom is a supervisory government body, which was assigned the government's shareholdings in various distilleries. This included a 51% stake in Moscow's Cristall distillery, one of Russia's most renowned, which was closely followed by a controversial management coup late last year (http://just-drinks.com/features_detail.asp?art=249).

Even more controversial was when Rosspirtprom searched the offices of Sojuzplodoimport (SPI) to look for "evidence of malpractice". As the former State import/export monopoly, SPI became a joint stock company in 1992, and is now owned by several private investors, with the government retaining a minority stake, after a management buy-out in 1996. SPI has long held the export rights to 49 classic trademarks including Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya, Limmonaya and Okhotnichaya, while also licensing local production in export markets.

Rosspirtprom claims to control 18 major branches of Russia's vodka production though the state's holdings handed over to the monopoly consisted of 105 such companies. However, since many of them represent associations consisting of several distilleries, the real number of companies controlled one way or another by Rosspirtprom exceeds 200.

The state interest in various companies fluctuates from single-figure percentages to the controlling stake. Rosspirtprom now controls the Moscow-based Cristall distillery, Irkutsk-based Kedr, and Samara-based Rodnik. Rosspirtprom will have a smaller but nonetheless significant influence in the Novosibirsk-based VINAP (33%) and Kaliningrad-based SPI-RVVK.

According to Zivenko, the new brands will be produced in all 18 branches. Zivenko told the local press: "We would like to make the logo of Rosspirtprom a national sign of alcohol quality."

Zivenko also said Rosspirtprom has entrusted development of the brand to a famous UK company (according to available information, this company is Identica, which developed the vodka brand Russky Standart) "to make provisions for an export component in the further trading policy."

Rosspirtprom has agreed with Alfa-group on production of Smirnov vodka at its facilities, he said.

Zivenko concluded by announcing Rosspirtprom's budget arrears totalled about 1.5 billion rubles, including about 800 million rubles owned by Rosspirtprom branches, but said he will propose that the government write off these debts.