Pharmaceutical chain Super-Pharm has signed an agreement with Chinese company Ensure to open 37 branches in mainland China, the company said Monday, as part of its international expansion set for 2006. The two companies' had been in talks for some two and a half years and, while the initial contract between them was signed in May 2004, the deal was only finalized last month. The final signing was held up due to legal complications which placed the Chinese company in the hands of liquidators, and which needed to be cleared before Super-Pharm could enter the partnership. In closing the deal, Super-Pharm bought 51 percent of the partnership for an undisclosed amount, with Ensure holding the remaining 49%. The stores will operate under the Super-Pharm name and format, with the first one due to open in the first quarter of 2006. "We see tremendous opportunity in China and feel that we have found the right partners to succeed there," said Lior Ritbleit, CEO of Super-Pharm. "I believe that our experience in starting up in Poland together with our business model in Israel will allow us to maximize the opportunity we have in the Chinese market," Ritbleit said. "We foresee opening hundreds of branches in China over the next few years." The company's move into China follows its international debut in Poland three years ago, where it is about to open its thirteenth store. Super-Pharm also announced Monday that it plans to expand its operations in Poland, where it intends to grow to 50 stores there by 2009, having opened seven in 2005. Each store, it said in a statement, comes at an investment of $250,000. Locally, the company operates 117 pharmacies and said it has signed contracts to establish another 30 in the near future.