A massive 164.5 per cent increase in spirit volume sales helped French drinks group Belvédère lift revenues by 41 per cent in 2002, ahead of its expectations. Sales for the year reached €229.4 million.
The fourth quarter of the year saw a major boost in sales - 30 per cent to €83.9 million or 140 per cent on a like-for-like basis - helped mainly by the cut in spirit taxes in Poland, the main market where Belvédère operates.
As result of this new excise regime introduced on 1 October, Belvédère saw its Polish spirit sales (mainly vodka) increase fivefold during the three month period, and Poland now accounts for more than 95 per cent of the company's business. Belvédère is also now the biggest drinks company in Poland with a 19 per cent share, according to Nielsen data supplied by the company.
And Poland will continue to be the main market for the French company in the future, with the decision to reduce sales of low-margin wines to Lithuania. Wine sales for the year fell 41 per cent in volume to 10.17 million bottles as a result of this decision.
While turnover of €229 million is roughly equal to the company's estimate of €230 million made at the start of the year, Belvédère said that in reality it was better than expected, because it had allowed it come despite the sale in June of the Zoladkowa Gorzka brand, which accounted for 2.5 per cent of the vodka market.
Net profits for the year are likely to be boosted by exceptional items of around €16 million related to the settlement with Philip Millennium over the rights to the Belvédère vodka brand in Poland and the sale of Zoladkowa Gorzka.
With the continued improvement in the Polish market, boosted by the acquisition during 2002 of Starogard Gdanski and Destylarnia Cracovie, Belvédère said it expected to post sales of around €300 million in 2003.