Japan's leading apparel wholesaler Onward Kashiyama Co is to merge its three jeans businesses into a single publicly traded company called Impact 21.

The three businesses are currently sublicensed to produce garments for Polo Ralph Lauren: Impact 21 (women's), Acty 21 (men's) and Partner 21 (jeans).

The move pre-empts a shuffle in Polo Ralph Lauren's Japanese licensing arrangements. The firm said yesterday it is to acquire a 50 per cent stake in its Japanese Master License,with Onward Kashiyama, holding a 45 per cent interest and Seibu, Japan's leading department store operator, a 5 per cent position.

On the sub-licensing side, Polo Ralph Lauren will purchase from Onward Kashiyama an equity stake equal to 18 per cent of the merged Impact 21 at the closing of the transactions.

"Our Japanese business continues to grow and we are experiencing strong demand for our products there," said Roger Farah, president and chief operating officer, Polo Ralph Lauren.

"With Onward Kashiyama we have a great partner who has manufacturing expertise that we can leverage to reach the full growth potential of this key market. When completed, this arrangement will allow Polo to accelerate the development of our brands and to more actively participate in the financial impact of this business."