Finnish design house Artek sold to Swiss Vitra

HELSINKI Fri Sep 6, 2013 8:19am EDT

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HELSINKI (Reuters) - Artek, the Finnish modern design house founded by Alvar Aalto and his associates in 1935, has been sold to Swiss design and architecture firm Vitra, the companies announced on Friday.

Artek sells stools and lamps designed by Aalto. Once ubiquitous in Finnish homes, Aalto pieces are now considered collectible items - London's Skandium store sells Aalto's A809 floor lamp for 2,495 pounds ($3,900).

The deal comes as a prolonged downturn in Europe begins to hurt the Finnish economy, which had been thought resilient due to the country's strong finances.

Artek, previously owned by privately-held Swedish investment company Proventus, does not report financial results. It said the sale would give it more global exposure.

"The international dimension, which was a clear goal already in Artek's founding manifesto of 1935, needed to be revitalized. That arena is where we want to be, and alliances or ownership arrangements are one way of building the future," said Mirkku Kullberg, Artek's CEO.

The companies said they will also look for ways to cut costs in manufacturing, distribution and logistics. Vitra has six production sites including Weil am Rhein and Neuenburg in Germany as well as Zhuhai, China.

Vitra, a family-owned furniture company, manufactures the works of many well known furniture designers - such as the Panton chair by Verner Panton, made entirely out of plastic, and lounge chairs by Charles and Ray Eames - for the European market.

The price of the deal was not disclosed. ($1 = 0.6415 British pounds)

(Reporting by Ritsuko Ando; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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