Nestle, the Swiss food and drinks producer, has announced it has acquired a Russian bottled water company called Saint Springs. The water bottler, one of Russia's first when it started in 1993, was owned privately by American and Russian entrepreneurs and is the only bottled water blessed by the Russian Orthodox Church.

The move gives Nestle, the world's largest bottled water producer, the leading share of Russia's fast-growing bottled water market, after it acquired 100% of Saint Springs from private foreign investors for an undisclosed price. Analysts valued the deal at about $50m.

Nestle Waters described the move as "a big step" into a "very dynamic market" in which it expects rapid growth and consolidation over the next few years. It gives Nestle the leading position in Russia with 108m litres sold in 2001 and 10% of the bottled water market by volume.

Saint Springs's main competitors include PepsiCo's Aqua Minerale brand and Coca-Cola's Bon Aqua.

Saint Springs, whose name in Russian means "saintly source", comes from underground springs near Kostroma, a town 350km north of Moscow, by agreement with the local eparchate of the Russian Orthodox Church.

Nestle Waters has a 16.3% share of the global market and over €5bn of sales in 2001.