Suntory Holdings, one of Japan's largest drinks firms, has signed a deal to acquire a majority stake in ASC Fine Wines Holding, China's leading importer and distributor of premium wine.

Suntory will buy up the unspecified majority stake in ASC owned by Austrian firm Wine Holdings Gmbh, the firms announced today (9 December). A fee for the deal was not disclosed.

The acquisition, which remains subject to scrutiny under China's Anti-Monopoly Law, hands Suntory a leading presence in the emerging Chinese wine market.

"The China market demand for quality wines is expected to return to growth in 2010," said ASC, which imports more than 1,000 wine brands and distributes them to more than 100 cities across Greater China. It employs 800 people.
"ASC is better positioned than any other company to deal with both the great opportunities and challenges China presents," the group added.

Japan's largest drinks firms are seeking to expand across Asia to offset sluggish consumer demand on their domestic market.

Last month, Suntory completed its deal to buy soft drinks group Orangina Schweppes.