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Li Ning pays $69.7 mn to control UK shoe brand Clarks

Jan '21
Pic: Shutterstock
Pic: Shutterstock
Viva China Holdings, the sports talent agency founded by Chinese gymnast-turned-entrepreneur Li Ning, recently bought control of Clarks, one of the oldest British shoe producers. The company agreed to pay £51 million ($69.7 million) for 51 per cent of LionRock Capital Partners QiLe Limited, the private equity firm that will own the Clarks brand, according to a filing at the Hong Kong stock exchange.

The investment would give Viva China control of Clarks when LionRock completes its £100 million investment to re-capitalise Clarks, a Hong Kong-based English-language daily reported. Li is the non-executive chairman of LionRock. Li owns a 92.91 per cent of Viva China, set up in 2009, according to its interim report for 2020.

C&J Clark Limited had confirmed last year that its proposed partnership with LionRock Capital announced on November 4 had been approved by Clarks’ shareholders. LionRock Capital is a seasoned private equity fund and seeks to partner with leading global consumer brands with an emphasis on China expansion.

Clarks has been struggling due to the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The retailer with 320 stores in the United Kingdom had to cut 900 jobs last May out of a global workforce of 13,000, after reporting a 2019 loss of £83 million. The company warned of deteriorating performance in 2020.

The partnership with LionRock will provide resources and investment as well as the expertise to grow the Clarks brand in China, which remains a primary opportunity, the shoemaker’s chief executive Giorgio Presca had said late last year.

Li’s purchase of Clarks follows the acquisitions of dozens of global sports brands by Anta Sports, Xtep and 361 Degrees International, which make up China’s four largest sportswear producers along with Li’s brand.

Fibre2Fashion News Desk (DS)

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February 2021

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