June 8, 2020 / 5:16 AM / 2 months ago

Norway's domestic liquor sales up 44% in May

OSLO, June 8 (Reuters) - Norway’s government-run wine and liquor monopoly increased its sales by 44% in May from the same month last year as coronavirus travel restrictions prevented the purchase of cheaper alcohol abroad, the Vinmonopolet retailer said on Monday.

Norway closed its borders in mid-March to most foreigners and imposed quarantines on anyone returning home from abroad, while also shutting its restaurants, thus leaving Vinmonopolet as the only source of alcohol other than beer.

The retailer’s overall sales volume rose by 28% in the January-May period despite little change during the first two of those months.

“Sales have increased, but not more than could be expected in light of the halt to border trade, duty-free stores and restaurants, bars and cafes,” Vinmonopolet spokesman Jens Nordahl said in a statement.

The border closure has benefited private-sector importers, producers and wholesalers who supply the retail monopoly’s stores, such as Oslo-listed Arcus.

“As long as travel restrictions apply, sales at Vinmonopolet look set to remain strong,” Arcus spokesman Per Bjoerkum said.

Arcus, which in March postponed a decision on whether to pay dividends, has since reinstated the planned payout and seen its stock price rally 50%, hitting a 14-month high on Friday.

While restaurants and bars have gradually been allowed to reopen, albeit with fewer customers, the government said limitations on foreign travel could last for months.

On May 29 Norway agreed to allow travel from neighbouring Denmark to resume from June 15 while maintaining quarantines for all other nations, including Sweden - a popular destination for Norwegians seeking to save on their alcohol bill. (Reporting by Terje Solsvik)

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