THE boss of Loch Lomond Distillers has targeted expansion in the rapidly-growing Chinese market after the Scotch whisky company was acquired by a major Asian investment firm.

Colin Matthews has increased his own minority stake in Loch Lomond after leading a deal which has seen Hillhouse Capital Management acquire the majority of shares in the business.

The value of the deal was not disclosed. However it is believed to be worth significantly more than the £210 million paid for the company in 2014, when former Imperial Tobacco boss Mr Matthews led a management buy-in with private equity group Exponent to acquire it from the Bulloch family. A source said a reported suggesting the deal valued Loch Lomond at between $300m and $400m was “pessimistic”, signalling a profitable exit for Exponent, whose investments include Quorn Foods, Trainline and the Ambassador Theatre Group.

Hillhouse has investments in a range of consumer brands around the world, including Uber, Airbnb and Tencent, the tech giant behind WeChat, dubbed the “WhatsApp of Asia”.

Mr Matthews, who declined to say how big his stake now is, heralded the deal as a major vote of confidence in the Scotch whisky industry at a time of uncertainty caused by Brexit.

And he declared it underlined the transformation made at the company in the last five years, which have seen significant investment made to expand its distilling, bottling and maturation capacity, revitalise its brands and grow internationally.

Loch Lomond, which has distilleries in Alexandria and Campbeltown and a bottling plant in Ayrshire, turned over £52.9m in the year ended September 30, up from £50.5m the previous time.

Its growth came as the distiller, which has 230 staff, continued to expand internationally, with its brands now on sale in around 120 global markets. Having generated 10 per cent of its sales in international markets in 2014, exports overseas now account for 70 per cent of revenue.

And Mr Matthews said that teaming up with Hillhouse gives it the platform to expand significantly in the Far East.

Loch Lomond has been gradually building a presence in Asian markets such as Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, Malaysia, Hong Kong and, increasingly, China, in recent years.

Now it has the firepower to achieve faster growth in China, where the distiller is poised to benefit from Hillhouse’s presence and business relationships. Consumer brands backed by Hillhouse in Asia include Peet’s Coffee and Gimborn pet food.

Mr Matthews also flagged the “potential for M&A (mergers and acquisitions)” activity as a result of the deal.

He said: “Nearly all of the Hillhouse money is from US institutions, [such as] United States pension funds and not for profit organisations. Most of it its United States institutions and they have a very big presence in New York City.

“There’s lots of opportunities on the American continent, which Hillhouse have actually already been very helpful [with]. I’m really impressed by the knowledge of the team and their understanding of the business.”

He added: “In the uncertainty of Brexit for British business, Hillhouse has made a huge statement to say how much they believe in the Scotch whisky industry and my business in particular.”

Mr Matthews noted that the recent success of Loch Lomond, whose profile has been raised internationally with its sponsorship of The Open golf championship, had generated lots of interest from potential investors and strategic partners. But he said was particularly taken with Hillhouse, which runs investments from its offices in Hong Kong, New York, Beijing and Singapore.

Mr Matthews, who said the Loch Lomond executive team had also invested in the deal, said: “Their ability to add value and help across all of Asia… is absolutely incredible given the portfolio of company investments they have me. We are absolutely thrilled.”