China’s LVMH Wannabe to Slow M&A After $4 Billion Global Spree

(Bloomberg) -- Ruyi Holding Group, the Chinese apparel firm that’s taking over Bally International AG, will slow its dealmaking after announcing more than $4 billion of overseas acquisitions in the past three years.

The company will focus on integrating existing brands and ease its M&A pace in the short to medium term, chairman Qiu Yafu said in an interview Monday in Hong Kong. In the future, Ruyi will only consider buying labels that are profitable and have high growth potential, according to Qiu.

“Some of the brands that we bought, although they’re heritage brands and enjoy very high consumer recognition, their business performance was far from ideal,” said Qiu, 60. “We need to give them time -- say five years -- to turn those brands profitable.”

China’s LVMH Wannabe to Slow M&A After $4 Billion Global Spree

The group needs to inject new, trendy elements into underperforming brands and boost their e-commerce offerings, according to Qiu. It plans to invest more to revitalize labels owned by Hong Kong-listed unit Trinity Ltd., which controls British bespoke tailor Gieves & Hawkes, Qiu said. Ruyi sees Trinity’s profit improving significantly next year after increasing online sales in China, he said.

Ruyi is shifting gears after declaring earlier this year its ambition to develop into the LVMH of China. The company, previously a little-known Chinese textile manufacturer, now owns several European luxury brands after purchases including U.K. trench coat maker Aquascutum and SMCP SA, the French fashion retailer whose labels include Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot.

“We have a clear M&A strategy: we stay very focused on building Ruyi into a leading fashion group,” Qiu said. “Unlike some other companies, we don’t blindly buy brands just for the sake of acquisitions.”

China’s LVMH Wannabe to Slow M&A After $4 Billion Global Spree

Luxury companies such as Gucci owner Kering SA and LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SE are counting on increasingly wealthy Chinese shoppers for the lion’s share of their growth. Consumers in the second-biggest economy spent 105 billion euros ($119 billion) on luxury purchases last year, almost a third of the worldwide total, a proportion expected to reach 40 percent by 2024, according to Boston Consulting Group.

SMCP’s brands have increased online sales in China by 40 percent to 50 percent this year, Qiu said. Ruyi targets similar growth rates for Trinity following recent partnerships with some online platforms, he said. It took control of Trinity in April, surpassing billionaire brothers Victor and William Fung as the company’s biggest shareholder.

China’s LVMH Wannabe to Slow M&A After $4 Billion Global Spree

Trinity operates more than 250 stores in Greater China and Europe for Gieves & Hawkes, British clothing label Kent & Curwen, Paris-based Cerruti 1881 and licensed brand D’urban.

Ruyi aims to complete its purchase of Invista’s Apparel & Advanced Textiles unit, which owns the rights to materials including Lycra and Coolmax fibers, by year-end, Qiu said. It’s paying more than $2 billion to buy the business from Invista, which is an arm of Koch Industries Inc., Bloomberg News reported last year.

The Chinese group wants to learn from LVMH’s multibrand approach, which allows a company to harness synergies while preserving each label’s individuality and market niches, Qiu said. It also wants to match LVMH’s pursuit of high-quality products, he said.

“We understand there’s still a long way for us to reach there,” he said. “We hope to make Ruyi a well-known Chinese equivalent of LVMH in perhaps 30, 40 or 50 years.”

Founded as Shandong Jining Woolen Mill in 1972, near the birthplace of Confucius, Ruyi controls Tokyo-traded Renown Inc. and Shenzhen-listed Shandong Jining Ruyi Woolen Textile Co. It’s also been expanding in the U.S., cementing plans in 2017 to open a factory in Forrest City, Arkansas, and create as many as 800 jobs.

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