PUMA sportswear is moving into China in a big way. Hwa Kay Thai, which holds the franchise, will invest about $100 million this year on the expansion of Puma retail outlets in China. The company has six outlets in China and is planning to open more in Beijing, Guangzhou, Foshan, Shanghai and the Pearl River Delta region, boosting the number to about 20. The company is on the verge of signing an agreement with a Beijing partner to set up a 50-50 joint venture to distribute Puma products in Beijing. The agreement will be finalised within two months. Originally, the Jin Ji Li was the sole Puma distributor in Beijing. The company has changed the form of co-operation to further enhance the control of marketing and distribution of the products. ''Our co-operation still continues, only the form has changed. The Chinese side will provide the retail space, and we'll offer the management expertise,'' said Mr Ronald Yue, deputy managing director of Hwa Kay Thai. ''Our company's participation into the distribution business in Beijing will be under the new arrangement. Both parties have to put in a certain amount of paid-up capital into the new company.'' Mr Yue said in order to properly reflect their brand's international image, it was necessary to set up Puma's concept store. ''Currently, the Puma division accounts for a small percentage of the group, but it has the potential of providing significant contribution in future.'' Three Puma concept stores will be opened in Shanghai within six months, and two or three stores in Beijing and southern China. ''As there is great enthusiasm for sport in China and the consumption power is enormous, especially in the south, the market potential is very good,'' he said. Mr Yue does not rule out introducing other brand names of sports products into its retail outlets. Apart from the retail sales, the company also runs direct sales business to individual owners in China. In Hongkong, there are 14 stores and the company expects the number to increase to 20. Mr Yue said there was still room for further expansion in the territory.