Chi­nese group to buy Wil­son ten­nis racket maker for $5.2bn

Gulf Times Business - - BUSINESS -

AChi­nese in­vestor group led by Anta Sports Prod­ucts reached a $5.2bn deal to ac­quire the maker of Wil­son ten­nis rack­ets and Louisville Slug­ger base­ball bats, as it seeks to bring high-end ath­letic equip­ment to China’s wealthy con­sumers.

The con­sor­tium, which in­cludes Chi­nese buy­out firm Foun­tain­Vest Part­ners, will of­fer share­hold­ers of Fin­land’s Amer Sports Oyj €40 a share in cash, or about €4.6bn.

The deal is the largest struck by a Chi­nese ac­quirer for a Euro­pean as­set since China In­vest­ment Corp agreed to buy Logi­cor Europe for al­most $14bn in June 2017, ac­cord­ing to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Sig­nif­i­cant mi­nor­ity in­vestors in the con­sor­tium also in­clude Chip Wil­son, the bil­lion­aire founder of yoga-ap­parel re­tailer Lu­l­ule­mon Ath­let­ica Inc, and Chi­nese in­ter­net gi­ant Ten­cent Hold­ings.

China has be­come a ma­jor fo­cus for mak­ers of lux­ury prod­ucts, as com­pa­nies tar­get an in­creas­ingly wealthy mid­dle class. Ath­letic-goods com­pa­nies such as Adi­das AG are also seek­ing to tap into a grow­ing in­ter­est in healthy life­styles among the na­tion’s con­sumers.

Anta, China’s big­gest ath­letic-ap­parel pro­ducer, is seek­ing ac­qui­si­tions of well-es­tab­lished global brands as it works to in­crease its busi­ness over­seas. The Chi­nese gov­ern­ment is push­ing to ex­pand in sports rang­ing from soc­cer to skiing, as well as the in­dus­tries that sup­ply equip­ment for com­peti­tors and week­end en­thu­si­asts. Amer’s port­fo­lio of well-known brands, in­clud­ing Salomon ski boots, Arc’teryx out­door gear and Atomic win­ter equip­ment, is an at­trac­tive prospect for Anta ahead of the com­ing Olympic Games in Asia. Bei­jing will host the Win­ter Olympics in 2022, pro­vid­ing a spring­board for sales of skis and snow­boards, while the 2020 Sum­mer Games in Tokyo will of­fer a show­case for other Amer brands.

“We are ex­cited to bring these pre­mium in­ter­na­tional brands and prod­ucts to Chi­nese con­sumers, who in­creas­ingly seek high- end prod­ucts with out­stand­ing qual­i­ties and her­itage in var­i­ous niche and spe­cialised sports seg­ments,” Anta Sports chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Ding Shizhong said in a state­ment.

The of­fer price rep­re­sents a 14% pre­mium over Amer’s clos­ing stock price on Wed­nes­day, and is al­most dou­ble Amer’s val­u­a­tion a year ago. Amer shares rose as much as 9.4% to €38.50 in Helsinki.

Amer Sports was ad­vised by Gold­man Sachs Group on the trans­ac­tion, while Cit­i­group worked with Anta Sports, Foun­tain­Vest and the group of buy­ers.

“Un­der the own­er­ship of the in­vestor con­sor­tium, there is an op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue to de­liver our strong sus­tain­able prof­itable growth with fur­ther ac­cel­er­a­tion in our strate­gic pri­or­i­ties in­clud­ing soft goods, di­rect-to-con­sumer and China,” Amer Sports CEO Heikki Takala said in the state­ment.

Af­ter com­ple­tion of the deal, the con­sor­tium plans for Amer Sports to be oper­ated in­de­pen­dently from Anta, with Takala and other ex­ec­u­tives con­tin­u­ing to lead the busi­ness.

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