US/FINLAND: Brown-Forman acquires majority share in Finlandia

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The US spirits company, Brown-Forman, has announced that it is to acquire an additional 35% in Finlandia Vodka Worldwide (FVW), the joint venture company which owns the Finlandia brand and trademark, for €70.2m, raising the company's holding in the venture to 80%.

Following its acquisition of a majority share in FVW, Brown-Forman will assume full marketing responsibility for the brand. The company has unveiled a comprehensive programme to boost the growth of Finlandia globally. It said it will significantly increase spend behind the brand in the US and in other key vodka markets to as much as $18m in the first year, more than doubling the marketing investment in the brand in those markets.

Altia, the state-owned Finnish spirits producer, is to retain a 20% interest in FVW and will remain the exclusive supplier of vodka to the operation through to 2017.

"This action represents the next step in Altia's plan to raise the profile of Finlandia as a leading global premium vodka," said Altia's president and CEO, Veikko Kasurinen. "Brown-Forman has demonstrated an excellent knowledge of the market for our product and is now committing substantial marketing, sales and management resources to further its growth. It is very important for Altia to continue as exclusive supplier and to maintain the Finnish heritage of the brand."

For Brown-Forman, William M. Street, the group's president said: "Finlandia is an important part of our global portfolio of brands. We are delighted with the expansion of our partnership with Altia and with our new leadership role in Finlandia's development as a brand. We believe this refinement in the relationship and additional advertising and promotional spending are the logical next steps in keeping Finlandia competitive in a fast-paced, fashion intensive segment of the global spirits market."

Companies: Brown-Forman

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