FINLAND: Hartwall Q1 up and plans $50m for Ukraine

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Finnish brewer Hartwall announced its first quarter results today, which saw the company achieve a 72% rise in profits before extraordinary items to €23.1m (US$21.1m) on sales up 41% to €196m.

The results were driven by growth in Eastern Europe and the company reiterated that 2002 would see growth over last year, despite said a projected slowdown in Eastern Europe. Russia and the Ukraine would remain strong markets, Hartwell said.

"Despite the general economic uncertainty worldwide, the operating environment remained favourable in all the group's market areas," Hartwall said in a statement.

Hartwall's result was again buoyed by strong earnings from Baltic Beverages Holding (BBH), Russia's biggest brewery which the Finnish firm owns on a 50-50 basis with Carlsberg Breweries A/S.

Operating profit at BBH was up 80%, contributing €27.4m to Hartwell's results. BBH sales rose 65% year-on-year.

Hartwell also announced that its BBH would invest US$50m to build a new brewery in Ukraine.

"With the new brewery BBH aims to strengthen its position in the prosperous region of the Ukrainian capital and at the same time optimise BBH's logistic structure," Hartwall said in a statement.

Hartwall is currently in the process of merging with UK brewing giant Scottish & Newcastle. The takeover, by S&N, will create Europe's second largest brewery after Heineken.  The deal has already been approved by the European competition authorities.

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