From wire reports, TALLINN - Italian-owned Saviola appeared closer to selling its interest in Voru Juust(Voru Cheese), Estonia's largest cheese maker, to the Finnish dairy Valio.
Heiki Pensa, chief executive officer of Voru Juust, said talks over the sale
of the company had been continuing over the past three or four months and
should be concluded during the next month.
Pensa said he could not comment on the negotiations in detail.
"The Italians' objective is to find a strategic investor who would develop
the company further," said Pensa.
Valio is also negotiating with minority shareholders in Voru Cheese that
include Sampo Pank, also owned by Finns, and Estonian private persons.
Valio, which already owns the Laeva Meierie dairy in Estonia, controls
approximately 30 percent of the national dairy market.
The company is reportedly also conducting negotiations with minority
shareholders in Voru Cheese, including Sampo Bank, which is also
Finnish-owned, and individual investors.
Timo Malmi, vice president of Valio Scandinavia and Baltics, said that he
would not comment on the ongoing negotiations but said that Valio was keen
to increase its presence in the Baltics, particularly in Estonia.
Malmi said that cheese was a very good export product and that the market
for fine cheeses was growing in both Scandinavia and the Baltics.
Until now Valio has not produced any cheese in Estonia.
Malmi did not rule out that Valio would build an entirely new production
complex in Estonia if talks with the Italians failed.
"Often building something new is a better option," he said.
Competitors of Voru Cheese say that Valio is mainly interested in exporting
"I think that Valio is interested to have its own cheese industry close to
the Russian border where one can easily carry out such exports," said Aare
Annus, chairman of Tallinn Dairy.
Voru Juust posted 186 million kroons (11.8 million euros) in sales last
year, though the company finished the year with a loss.