The Russian state is looking to privatise its alcohol empire next year, according to press reports in the country. At a government meeting last Thursday, Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeev proposed inclusion of Rosspirtprom into the privatisation plan. After the meeting, Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref was quoted saying: "If the Agriculture Ministry presents the necessary documents in two weeks, Rosspirtprom will be sold in 2005."

Rosspirtprom was established in 2000 to manage state assets in the alcohol industry. State-owned stakes in 105 distilleries were concentrated in Rosspirtprom, with the holding concentrated in about 40% of vodka and about 60% of alcohol production facilities of Russia.

Pavel Shapkin, chair of the National Alcohol Association, estimates the value of Rosspirtprom to be around US$10bln.

Rosspirtprom's most popular trademark in Russia, Gzhelka, was sold in 2002 to Kristall trading and an industrial group. Other vodka brands controlled by the state (Stolichnaya, Moskovskaya and others) are managed by the federal state enterprise Soyuzplodimport.