Conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and Beijing's oldest medicine firm are close to finalising a US$200 million joint venture as part of efforts to grab a larger slice of the competitive but lucrative drug market, according to sources. The deal with China Beijing Tong Ren Tang Group could be finalised at the end of this month, a source close to Hutchison said yesterday. Tong Ren Tang, which has manufactured and sold Chinese medicine for the past 300 years, had reportedly signed a letter of intent for the proposed joint venture, which would involve a US$200 million investment. A Hutchison spokesperson declined to comment on the deal. Citing Tong Ren Tang official Jin Yongnian, China Daily reported at the weekend that the joint venture would be named Tong Ren Tang Hutchison Drug Investment. Hutchison would have a 49 per cent stake in the venture, while the drug maker would own the remainder. Analysts said Tong Ren Tang wanted to capitalise on its established brand and history in Chinese medicine as the market was increasingly gaining recognition in the world's medical sector. Tong Ren Tang, which generated 663 million yuan turnover last year, is the parent of Chinese drug maker Tong Ren Tang Technologies, which is listed on the Growth Enterprise Market. The listed company's net profit jumped 22.21 per cent to 133.85 million yuan in the first nine months of this year from the same period last year after the Sars outbreak spurred sales.