March 24, 2009 / 6:59 PM / 11 years ago

Santa gets new landlord as recession hits

A man dressed as Santa Claus reads letters from children from around the world in his office at the Santa Claus' Village at the Arctic Circle near Rovaniemi, Finland. Picture taken December 18, 2007. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Pounded by the global recession and facing a sharp economic contraction in 2009, Finland said Tuesday it would sell its stake in Santapark, home to Father Christmas, to local investors.

Finland said it would sell its 32 percent stake to Santa’s Holding Oy, which will also buy shares in the Lapland-based park from the city of Rovaniemi and travel firm Lapin Matkailu Oy to take its stake to 56 percent.

A handful of Finnish investors own the remaining shares.

National broadcaster YLE said the new owners planned to slash sales and marketing costs at the park, which has struggled financially since opening in 1998, and raise annual sales to 2 million euros ($2.73 million) from 1.5 million.

Finland said earlier Tuesday it expected a 5 percent drop in the economy this year, and a contraction of 1.4 percent in 2010, with growth expected to return only in 2011.

Reporting by Brett Young, editing by Will Waterman

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