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French Connection Buys Back Japan Biz

French Connection Group plc bought back the remaining 50 percent stake in its Japanese business, French Connection Japan Inc., from Renown Inc.

French Connection Group plc, the London-based clothing retailer, said it bought back the remaining 50 percent stake in its Japanese business, French Connection Japan Inc., from Renown Inc.

French Connection said the transaction had been satisfied by the waiver of a 1.98 million pounds, or $3.95 million, loan due to Renown Inc. by French Connection Japan, and a cash payment of 240,000 pounds, or $479,600, made by Renown to French Connection.

French Connection Group will now be directly involved in the day-to-day management of French Connection Japan, the company said. Previously, it was engaged only on a broad managerial level and in providing funds.

French Connection Japan operates 21 French Connection-branded stores in the region. In the fiscal year to December 2007, the Japanese business recorded sales of 8.9 million pounds, or $17.7 million, with a net loss of 1.40 million pounds, or $2.79 million. French Connection said it is looking to move its Japanese business into profitability within three years.

“Asia is an important market and represents a great opportunity for French Connection,” said Stephen Marks, chairman and chief executive officer. “This move consolidates our position in one of the most important markets in the region.”

Renown, a Japanese apparel company, also owns the British luxury brand Aquascutum.

Minoru Nakamura, president of Renown, said in Japanese press reports this year that he plans to sell between 10 and 15 unprofitable brands Renown owns or has interests in. Renown’s rights to the trademark of the Kent and Curwen men’s wear brand were sold in June. Also this month Renown forecast a net loss of 2.9 billion yen, or $27.6 million, for the fiscal year ending February 2009.