By  on November 16, 2007

HONG KONG — Trading in shares of Joyce Boutique Holdings Ltd. was suspended Thursday pending announcement of a proposed privatization plan, according to documents filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange.

The move came one day after the Ma family revealed their resignations from the company, effective Monday. The action, by Wheelock & Co. chairman Peter Woo, who controls 52 percent of the company (compared with the Ma family's holding of 23 percent), has been directly linked to lackluster sales at the luxury retailer.

Joyce's net profit for the year to March dropped 31.1 percent to 51 million Hong Kong dollars, or $6.5 million, from 74 million Hong Kong dollars, or $9.5 million, last year. Sales grew 4.6 percent to 790.4 million Hong Kong dollars, or $101.5 million. The company has attributed its financial difficulties to rising rents and the strong euro.

Shares of Joyce Boutique Holdings had risen 13.8 percent earlier in the year but dropped to 37 Hong Kong cents, or 5 cents, before trading was suspended.

In 1999 Woo took then loss-making Lane Crawford private in a similar move. At the time, Lane Crawford reported an operating loss of 54.5 million Hong Kong dollars, or $7 million, for the first half of the year.

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