Starbucks Coffee International, part of US-based coffee shop chain Starbucks, has announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire an equity position in its Malaysian licensee, Berjaya Coffee Company.

The Malaysian company, which will change its name to Berjaya Starbucks Coffee Company as part of the transaction, will now be jointly owned by Starbucks Coffee International and Berjaya Group Berhad.

Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but Starbucks said the cash purchase is expected to close by July 2004. Once the deal is completed, Starbucks Berjaya Coffee will be owned 49.9% by Starbucks Coffee International and 50.1% by Berjaya Group Berhad, with each partner having equal voting rights in the company.

"We believe that by entering into an agreement to purchase an equity stake in this market will position us to grow the brand further throughout South East Asia. This buy-in is consistent with our long-term international expansion strategy," said Pedro Man, president of Starbucks Coffee Asia Pacific.

"We strongly believe in the potential of Malaysia based on the acceptance of the Starbucks brand in the market," Man added.

The first Starbucks store opened in Malaysia in December 1998 and there are now 49 Starbucks outlets in the country.