Fast Retailing Co - which operates casual apparel chain Uniqlo, says it will acquire a majority stake in clothing company Shield Co, to enable it to jointly operate the Aspesi apparel brand's shops in Japan.

Fast will buy 5,400 (60 per cent of) shares of the company for JPY345 million by the end of August 2005, the company said.

Shield's parent company Mitsubishi Corp will hold 20 per cent in the firm and Italy's Alberto Aspesi & C SpA will hold another 20 per cent.

After the acquisition, Fast Retailing will change Shield's name to Aspesi Japan and appoint Kazuo Kawashima as president of the division.

Shield currently operates 13 stores selling Aspesi in Tokyo and other Japanese locations. Aspesi has seven garment lines for women, men and children.

Fast Retailing said in May that it will raise its voting rights in French apparel producer Nelson Finances SAS.