AUSTRALIAN brewing giant Carlton and United Breweries (CUB), maker of Foster's lager, is expected to sign a A$100 million (about HK$543 million) Shanghai brewing joint-venture agreement today. The agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Light Industry, believed to involve an existing brewery plus sites for expansion, would make CUB only the second foreign brewer represented in China - the other being the Philippines-based San Miguel. At present, almost all of China's 800 breweries are government-owned. CUB has given little detail about the agreement, but has made no secret of its China ambitions. It has been working on a China strategy for two years and Mr Ted Kunkel, chief executive of CUB parent Foster's Brewing Group, recently said China could become a fourth geographic arm for the company, along with Australia, the UK and North America. Chinese brewers reported a 20 per cent increase in sales last year and CUB has identified China as having huge growth potential. For the first five years of the joint venture it is expected to plough much of the return from that operation into expansion. The Foster's brand is expected to be involved in the Chinese venture. Chinese brewing industry analysts estimate beer production there has jumped more than tenfold in the past 13 years. CUB is likely to be the first of a number of brewers keen to capitalise on that. Its major Australian rival, Lion Nathan, has also expressed ambitions, with group chief executive Douglas Myers saying recently he expected to sign a joint venture involving the Swan or Lion brands.