The global distribution company Maxxium Worldwide and Japan's Asahi Breweries are in an advanced stage of negotiations for a joint venture in the Japanese market, according to a statement from Maxxium today.

The deal will see Asahi Breweries sell Maxxium products through the brewer's distribution network across the Japanese market. However the deal excludes Okinawa. The alliance, it is hoped, will be completed by early May.

"The new alliance combines the Maxxium premium spirits and wine portfolio, and marketing and high-end-on-premise skills with Asahi's clout and strength in the Japanese market," Maxxium said in a statement.

It continued by saying that Asahi is expected to almost double sales of its wines and spirits business by 2005.

"The strategic alliance between Maxxiun Japan and Asahi Breweries allows the new partners to enhance thei offer to the on-premise market, which accounts for a large proportion of the imported fine wines and spirits sold in Japan," Maxxium said.

Asahi has 1,100 sales representatives and a network of 90 sales offices. Maxxium Japan KK, the company's Japanese subsidiary, carries brands including Remy Martin Cognac, Jim Beam Bourbon, Absolut vodka and the Famous Grouse.

Maxxium Worldwide is the global distribution company of the four drinks giants Highland Distillers Vin & Sprit, Jim Beam Brands and Remy-Cointreau.