Whitbread has announced that Costa has acquired 49% of its South China Joint Venture from its JV partner, Yueda, for RMB 310m (£35m).

The company said the acquisition provided full ownership in “this important growth market” and is in line its strategy to focus on key international opportunities.

Costa currently owns 51% of the joint venture which operates 252 stores in the south of China, including 93 stores in Shanghai.

The South China business will continue to be consolidated in Costa and Whitbread financial accounts. The existing Joint Venture in the north of China, which is a 50/50 JV with BHG is unaffected by this transaction.

Alison Brittain, chief executive of Whitbread, said: “One of our three key strategic priorities is to focus on our strengths to grow internationally and today’s announcement marks a significant and exciting step in our ambitious growth plans for China. We have enjoyed an excellent partnership with Yueda over the past ten years together beginning to build the Costa brand in this key market.

“The coffee shop market in China is highly attractive, with a compelling opportunity for Costa to grow its presence over the longer term. This acquisition gives us full strategic and funding flexibility to unlock Costa’s potential in China, providing a strong platform to facilitate future growth, enhance the customer experience and make Costa the coffee shop of choice in this fast-growing market.

“We remain fully committed to our strong partnership with BHG in Northern China and look forward to building our business with them in the years ahead.”