CHINA – Whitbread has acquired the remaining 49% stake of its Costa Coffee venture in southern China for £35milion.

The British hotels to restaurants group, which already owns 51 per cent of its southern China joint venture, is buying the rest of the business from Chinese partner Yueda.

Its other China joint venture – which covers the north of the vast Asian nation and is a 50-50 joint venture with partner BHG – will remain intact.

Some investors have responded to stalling growth at Costa in Britain by pushing Whitbread to spin the caffeinated beverage brand out of the wider group.

Whitbread’s chief executive Alison Brittain has prioritised international expansion over a break-up of the company, however.

On Tuesday Ms Brittain, a former boss of Lloyds Banking Group’s retail arm, 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.”

She added, “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.”