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Taiwan's Great Wall, Illy plan China coffee JV

TAIPEI, June 25 (Reuters) - Taiwan's Great Wall Enterprises Corp 1210.TW and one of Italy's top coffee roasters, Illycaffe, plan to establish a chain of coffee stores in Greater China, an executive from the Taiwan firm said on Monday. Shanghai was the most likely choice of location, but the new firm has also considered Beijing or Taipei, said the executive, who added that the first store should be opened by the end of the year.

Great Wall will invest $2.45 million U.S. dollars to form a holding company with Illycaffe Asia Pacific Ltd. called Da Chan Espressamente Illy (China) Ltd., the company said in a recent statement to the Taiwan Stock Exchange.

Illycaffe, one of Italy’s top three roasters, sells its arabica espresso coffee to more than 140 countries. Currently it has only 120 cafe bars around the world, according to its Web site.

Illy competes in the Chinese cafe market with U.S. chain Starbucks SBUX.O, which has over 400 stores in mainland China, where coffee drinking continues to gain popularity among the 1.3 billion population, who traditionally drink tea.

Starbucks expects China to one day be its biggest markets outside the United States.

Great Wall is an integrated food company, which manufactures products such as animal feed, flour and cooking oil, and is the local franchisee of global fast food chains such as Burger King.

Andrea Illy, chairman and chief executive of the Trieste, Italy-based roaster, will visit Taiwan early next month to finalize the deal, said the executive.

(US$1=T$32.9)

((Reporting by Richard Dobson, editing by Erica Billingham; Reuters Messaging: richard.dobson.reuters.com@reuters.net; +886 2 2508-0815)) RD Keywords: ILLY CHINA/COFFEE

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