By Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh
BEIJING (Reuters) - The Chinese arm of Canadian coffee chain Tim Hortons said on Monday it has signed a deal with Metro China to open coffee shops in the retailer's stores, as it banks on rising coffee consumption in the world's most populous country.
Tims China said the first batch of seven Tims Go coffee shops, a compact-store model with delivery services, opened on Monday at Metro China stores in four cities. It eventually aims to expand the partnership to 60 cities.
Metro China, a joint venture of Wumart and Metro AG, currently operates 99 stores.
The latest openings bring the store footprint for Tims China, which plans to go public next year, to over 335 stores in 20 Chinese cities, up from 137 stores at the start of the year.
"China is the fastest growing coffee market in the world," Tims China chairman Peter Yu told Reuters.
"As of last year, Chinese per capita consumption of coffee was 5%, so one-twentieth of what it was in Japan, and one-thirtieth of what it was in Canada. So we believe there is tremendous room for us to bring and to help grow a coffee culture here."
In August, Tims China said in an investor presentation filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that it expects its stores in China to total more than 2,700 by 2026.
Yu said the COVID-19 pandemic had helped to drive growth in the coffee delivery business.
"So having a smaller format like Tims Go enables us to grow more rapidly," he said.
Tims China, formed in 2019, is a joint venture of Restaurant Brands International and private equity firm Cartesian Capital Group, backed by Tencent and Sequoia Capital.
In August, Tims China said it has agreed to go public in a merger with blank check company Silver Crest Acquisition Corp, valuing the business at $1.69 billion, including debt.
The company is "still doing everything possible" at the moment to close the deal in the first quarter of 2022, said Yu.
(Reporting by Sophie Yu and Brenda Goh; editing by Richard Pullin)