Pounded by the 'naughty' global recession and facing a sharp economic contraction in 2009, Finland said it would sell its stake in Santapark, home to Father Christmas, to local investors.

The Finnish government will sell its 32% 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%.

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 €2m from €1.5m.

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