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Starbucks Coffee Is China-Bound

Starbucks Coffee will open its first stores in China next year and plans to open 500 stores in Asia by 2003.

Starbucks officials signed a licensing agreement Friday with Beijing Mei Da Coffee Co. to open retail locations in Beijing. Starbucks currently has 65 stories in Asia, about half of them in Japan.

Mei Da is a 50-50 joint venture between state-backed Beijing General Corp. of Agriculture, Industry and Commerce and Borderless Investment Corp., a Seattle-based venture capital company.

Lawrence Maltz, president of Borderless and a former executive at Starbucks, said the first store is set to open in Beijing in early 1999.

Although China is a nation of tea drinkers, Starbucks will offer the same product line of lattes, espressos and other coffee drinks as well as tea that it does elsewhere, said Maltz.

"It would be foolish for us to wait until coffee was well entrenched in China," Maltz said. "We are prepared to take the time and to make the investments necessary."

Starbucks Coffee International, a subsidiary of Seattle-based Starbucks Coffee Co., has opened retail locations in Japan, Singapore, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and the United Kingdom.

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