China’s Hony to buy 30 percent in owner of Italian luxury brand: Reuters

Chinese private equity firm Hony Capital said on Tuesday it has agreed to buy a third of fashion brand Mr & Mrs Italy’s owner Duemmei, marking its first investment in the luxury industry amid a recovery in the sector.

Hony and Duemmei did not disclose details of the deal.

Hony, one of China’s biggest PE firms, has been eyeing targets in the United States and Europe in the consumer, services, and healthcare sectors. It will acquire the stake from Duemmei owners Fabio Leoncini and Andrea Bucalossi, Hony said a joint statement.

The PE firm, backed by Legend Holdings (3396.HK), parent of personal computer maker Lenovo Group (0992.HK), has about $10 billion worth of assets under management and its portfolio companies include PizzaExpress and co-working space firm WeWork.

The latest investment comes at a time when the luxury sector is making a comeback in the world’s second-largest economy, after years of lull following a corruption crackdown on flashy spending.

China, which accounts for close to a third of global luxury sales, has become a battleground for the likes of Prada (1913.HK), Louis

Vuitton (LVMH.PA), Fendi and more affordable luxury brands such as Coach (COH.N).

Beijing has also stepped up efforts to lift consumption in the local market and woo back Chinese shoppers from destinations such as Paris, Milan, New York and Tokyo.

Founded in 2007, Mr & Mrs Italy, is best known for its iconic “luxury parkas”, which are generally hand-made and lined with luxe fur.

With international markets accounting for more than 80 percent of its revenues, the brand is expected to record 57 million euros ($67 million) in income in 2017, the statement said.

Beijing-based Hony looks to expand Mr & Mrs Italy’s stores in China from three to more than 10 over the next five years, said one person with knowledge of the plan, who declined to be named.

“Luxury consumers are trending much younger and looking for more casual and specialized items,” Yuan Bing, a managing director at Hony who was involved in the transaction, said in the statement.

Spurred by Chinese consumers’ growing preference for buying luxury goods at home, the domestic luxury market will grow by 6-8 percent at constant exchange rates in 2017, up from 4 percent last year, according to consultancy Bain & Company.

Duemmei owners Leoncini and Bucalossi will remain the majority shareholders of the company and will retain responsibility for its management after the transaction, the statement added.