NEW YORK — Seeking to broaden its base in the Asian production arena, yarn and fiber supplier Unifi Inc. said Thursday it expects to set up a venture with a leading Chinese polyester producer.

The Greensboro, N.C.-based company said it has signed a nonbinding letter of intent with Kaiping Polyester Enterprises Group Co., in China’s Guangdong province. Unifi expects to own 75 percent of the proposed joint venture to sell about $300 million worth of polyester and nylon a year.

Kaiping is owned by the Kaiping city government.

Unifi said in a statement that it expected to close the deal by the end of the year. Unifi officials could not be reached for further comment.

Over the past year and a half, Unifi has been working to bolster its presence in Asia, a key sourcing spot for most major U.S. apparel brands and retailers. In March 2002, it set up Hong Kong-based division Unifi Asia Ltd., which last July reached a deal with Tuntex (Thailand) Co. Ltd. to produce and sell polyester filament yarn.

In a separate move, Texfi Marketing recently agreed to begin selling some Tuntex-produced products, reflecting an increasing number of U.S.-based mills who are joining forces with Asian competitors.

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