Coffee chain Costa is set to launch in China, marking a significant step in fulfilling its aim to become a global player.
Costa hopes to open more than 300 stores in China within the next few years, adding significantly to the chain's 100 international stores in India, Ireland and the Middle East.
The Whitbread-owned company, which has 450 outlets in the UK, has signed a joint venture agreement with Chinese state-owned enterprise The Yueda Group, in a bid to expand the Costa brand into Shanghai and Eastern China in 2007.
A Costa team based in Shanghai will work with the Yueda Group to adapt Costa's products for the Chinese market.
Coffee will be supplied from Costa's London-based Roastery in London, and the new stores will serve the traditional Costa menu.
Alan Parker, chief executive of Whitbread, said he was confident the brand would be a success.
"China is a very attractive market making this a major deal for Costa," he said. "There is an established coffee culture and increasing interest in drinking coffee out of the home, so there is consumer demand for the product."
By Jen Crothers