Finnish meat products group Atria has acquired a stake in its Lithuanian counterpart Saltuva as part of its plan to expand in the fast-growing Baltic meat products sector.
Atria did not say how much it would pay for Saltuva, which produces the popular Vilniaus Mesos Kombinatas products. The acquisition includes a new meat processing facility currently being built by Saltuva Vilnius and due to be completed next year.
Atria will take a minority stake in the Lithuanian company, with the majority of the company's shares remaining in the hands of Saltuva's managing director, who will continue at the head of the company following the Atria acquisition.
The acquisition of Saltuva is Atria's first step towards establishing a strong position in Lithuania, the largest market in the Baltic countries with 3.5 million inhabitants. The opportunity for Atria to gain a strong position there before Lithuania joins the EU next year - and before other western meat processors enter the market - were the main drivers of the decision to invest there.
Saltuva's market share is currently about 10 per cent, while its turnover is around €10 million.
Atria has been expanding throughout the Nordic region in recent years, with the Swedish meat products group Samfoods the latest addition to the company's portfolio.
The Finnish firm recently reported a 14.8 per cent increase in turnover to €173.8 million for the first quarter of fiscal 2004 and is predicting further strong growth for the rest of the year driven by the Swedish operations in particular.
Atria operates under the Lithells name in Sweden, while in Finland it also owns the Liha ja Säilyke cold cuts and salads company whose main brand is Forssan.