Атвор: Maria Ermakova and Ellen Pinchuk
June 21 (Bloomberg) — Russian Standard Vodka, the distilling arm of Russian Standard Corp., forecast growth in revenue from the spirit of as much as 60 percent this year as its brands attract more drinkers.
Vodka sales will rise at least 50 percent from about $100 million in 2006, billionaire owner Roustam Tariko said today in an interview. Total revenue came to $250 million last year. The Moscow- based company’s domestic sales of vodka climbed 30 percent, and foreign revenue jumped between 50 percent and 60 percent, he said.
The distiller began selling its Imperia vodka in the U.S. in 2005 to expand from Russia, where it controls more than two-thirds of the premium market for the spirit. Total U.S. sales of vodka will jump 22 percent to about $14.6 billion in 2011, according to Euromonitor International research. Billionaire real-estate developer Donald Trump has lent his name to a vodka brand.
``The vodka market is now the fastest-growing in hard spirits and will continue rising everywhere,’’ said Tariko, 45. ``Everybody understands that vodka is much healthier than other spirit products and more versatile.’’
Russian Standard faces intensified competition in the U.S. from Diageo Plc’s Smirnoff vodka, Pernod Ricard SA’s Stolichnaya and Vin & Sprit AB’s Absolut, its main rivals in the market. Sales in the country will be led by premium brands because American drinkers can afford higher-priced spirits costing $25 to $30 a bottle, according to Tariko.
U.S. beverage retailer Sam’s Wine & Spirits charges $24.99 on the Internet for a 750-milliliter bottle of Russian Standard’s 80-proof Imperia, compared with $19.99 for similar bottles of Stolichnaya and Absolut and $12.99 for Smirnoff. The Chicago-based company has the world’s biggest online selection of spirits, wine and beer, according to its Web site.
Russian vodka sales totaled $11.3 billion in 2006, topping the $10.2 billion recorded in western Europe, according to Euromonitor. Sales of the spirit in Russian stores will slide to $9 billion by 2011 as purchases in bars and restaurants in the country climb 11 percent to $487 million, it forecasts.
``Growth in premium and super-premium brands will continue in Russia,’’ Tariko said. ``It’s not about volume, but about quality. We want to control quality, from grain to consumer, by ourselves.’’
The distiller’s vodkas are based on production principles set out in 1894 by Russian chemist Dmitry Mendeleev, the creator of the initial version of the periodic table of elements. Czar Alexander III later decreed Mendeleev’s formula to be the standard for the royal court.
Exports jumped 32 percent last year, Russian Standard, which sells its vodka in 40 countries, has said this month. Vodka sales in Russia and abroad generated $100 million in revenue, and overall sales of both vodka and international spirit brands in Russia and abroad totaled $250 million.
``Higher-quality vodkas with strong authenticity will be more popular in Europe,’’ Tariko said. ``In Germany, everybody wants good Russian vodka. We have a boom there.’’
The spirit has overtaken whiskey in the U.K. and rum in Italy as the best-selling hard liquor, he said.
Tariko was born in Russia’s Tatarstan republic and ranked 150th on Forbes magazine’s list of billionaires in March with an estimated wealth of $5.4 billion, tied with Robert Rowling, the chairman of Irving, Texas-based Omni Hotels. He hosted a visit to Russia last month by U.S. businesswoman and television host Martha Stewart.
``It’s more of friendship than business relations,’’ Tariko said of Stewart. ``We have a big respect for her strong business attitude and her ability to link to consumers.’’
The billionaire said he showed Stewart a new vodka distillery in St. Petersburg, where Russian Standard opened a $60 million plant in October.
Tariko also said he’s cooperating with Trump, who doesn’t drink alcohol, on the Miss Universe contest by organizing and running a Miss Russia competition.
Russian Standard Corp. has alcohol-distribution, banking and insurance units as well as its distilling division. Russian Standard Bank, one of the nation’s biggest retail lenders, said in April profit more than doubled to $558 million last year on higher demand for consumer loans.
Russia’s consumer-lending market may expand by as much as 80 percent this year, according to the billionaire. He also said Russian Standard aims to make its insurance unit, the country’s second-biggest, the local market leader as the life- insurance industry develops.
Retail lending in the country may climb to $110 billion by the end of this year from $87 billion now, Alexei Marei, head of retail business at Alfa Bank in Moscow, said yesterday during an online press conference. Russians will borrow ``pretty heavily’’ over the next five to 10 years, according to Tariko, who said he sees no risk of a ``consumer bubble.’’
Russian mortgage lending has tripled to $15 billion in the past year, and deposits in individual accounts at banks in the country jumped by more than half to $25 billion over the period, according to Alfa Bank.