Lego opens first toy brick fac­tory in China

Kuwait Times - - BUSINESS -

BEI­JING:

Lego’s first Asian fac­tory opened in China yes­ter­day, the com­pany said, a year af­ter the Dan­ish firm found it­self em­broiled in con­tro­versy over re­fus­ing to sell toy bricks to provoca­tive Chi­nese artist Ai Wei­wei. Only the fifth Lego fac­tory in the world, the plant in east­ern Zhe­jiang prov­ince will pump out up to 80 per­cent of the com­pany’s prod­ucts sold in the booming Asia mar­ket, the com­pany said. China’s fast-grow­ing con­sumer mar­ket is a prize for for­eign com­pa­nies, even as ex­pan­sion slows in the world’s sec­ond­largest econ­omy.

But knock­off sets of col­or­ful build­ing blocks are widely avail­able in the coun­try, and on­line gam­ing is mas­sively pop­u­lar among young peo­ple, pos­ing chal­lenges to Lego’s ex­pan­sion. The com­pany was crit­i­cized in 2015 when artist Ai Wei­wei said it re­fused to sell him bricks be­cause they would be “used for po­lit­i­cal works”. Ai has been tar­geted by Chi­nese author­i­ties for his ad­vo­cacy of democ­racy and hu­man rights as well as other crit­i­cisms of the gov­ern­ment.

Ear­lier this year Lego opened its then-largest re­tail store in the world in Shang­hai, and it has up­dated its fig­urines to in­clude dragons and nin­jas in a bid to boost its ap­peal to Asian buy­ers. “Asia-in­clud­ing China-is a fu­ture core mar­ket for the LEGO Group,” said Bali Padda, the com­pany’s chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer. Its new China plant will em­ploy 1,200 peo­ple and rep­re­sents an in­vest­ment of more than 100 mil­lion eu­ros, the com­pany said, with­out of­fer­ing specifics. — AFP

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