CUNARD Lines has formed a joint venture company with AIG Associates and Mr Frank Tsao, chairman of IMC Holdings, to market Cunard's cruises in Asia. The company will be called Cunard American International Cruises and will be based in Hongkong. AIG Associates is a subsidiary of insurance firm American International Group. IMC is not involved in the deal. Details of the ownership arrangements were not disclosed. ''The amount of ownership is something which we consider proprietary according to our contractual relationship with each other. Therefore we will not divulge the percentage of ownership,'' said Mr Ronald Santangelo, a board member of Cunard American International Cruises. The Asian cruise market is said to be worth US$200 million and growing at an average rate of 10 per cent a year. Cunard's sales in Asia grew 200 per cent last year. ''The company will be the wholesaler for all Cunard products to both Asian and non-Asian clients throughout Asia with an emphasis on Southeast Asia, China and Japan,'' said Mr Jaswant Lalwani, president of Cunard American International. ''New ships are expected to be leased to offer additional cruise opportunities for Asian customers,'' he said. Japan has the world's fastest growing cruise market. It made up 50 per cent of Cunard's sales in Asia, followed by Singapore and Hongkong. ''However, Hongkong and Singapore's growth is limited owing to their small population and I expect Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia to overtake them in two years' time as these countries are virgin territories and are huge population centres,'' said Mr Lalwani. The diversification into Asia had helped Cunard offset the shortfall in demand in the US owing to the recession there. He added that the AIG sales force would be able to offer the cruise to its clients. ''How this will be packaged has yet to be finalised,'' he said. Cunard, a Trafalgar House company, markets 13 passenger vessels including the luxury liner, the Queen Elizabeth II. Mr Lalwani said the company had a range of prices and that there were products to suit those earning a mid-range salary, not just those on high incomes. More young people, between the ages of 30 and 40, were taking cruises, he said.