February 23, 2018 / 10:08 AM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Finland to list drinks company Altia

(Adds comments, background)

HELSINKI, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Finland’s state-owned alcoholic drinks company Altia said on Friday it was preparing to list its shares on the Helsinki bourse in March to boost growth.

Known for its Koskenkorva vodka brand, Altia generated sales of 359 million euros ($442 million) and reported an operating margin of 7.3 percent last year. It has recently acquired cognac brands Larsen, Renault and Xante.

“We have turned the company towards profitable growth ... This is a stable market and we have a strong position in it. We also plan to pay good dividends,” CEO Pekka Tennila told a news conference.

The flotation is part of the centre-right coalition’s plan to sell shares in state-owned companies. The government said it would retain a stake of 34 percent after the listing, but declined to give any estimate on valuation.

Privatisation is a sensitive topic in Finland and pressure from labour unions has limited sales in recent years. The state owns stakes in 14 of the Helsinki market’s listed firms, as well as 55 other companies.

The Altia plan follows parliament’s decision in 2014 to scrap a clause obliging the state to hold a majority stake in the firm.

$1 = 0.8129 euros Reporting by Jussi Rosendahl; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Edmund Blair

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