By  on November 3, 2009

LONDON — British accessories brand Lulu Guinness has a new Hong Kong investor — and ambitious growth plans in Asia.

The Hong Kong-based First Eastern Investment Group, which specializes in China-based deals, has taken a 15 percent stake in Lulu Guinness. The two groups also plan to form a 50-50 venture to expand the brand throughout Asia, excluding Japan.

“In five years’ time, we’re expecting 70 percent of the brand’s overall revenue to come from the Asia region,” said Lulu Guinness chief executive officer Martin Mason. “We currently have a minimal presence in the region, and we’re keen to find a partner.”

He declined to give details on how many store openings are planned, but said the number would be significant and the first units would open in China and South Korea.

Lulu Guinness already has a strong wholesale and licensing business in Japan, as well as two stand-alone stores, in Tokyo and Osaka, said Mason.

Lulu Guinness is First Eastern’s first and only fashion investment. Founded in 1988 by Victor L.L. Chu, the private company’s stakes are chiefly in China, and include infrastructure projects, light industries, real estate development and financial services.

“With our rich local and regional expertise, as well as extensive investment experience, I am confident we will add substantial value to Lulu Guinness in their expansion across the Asia region,” stated Chu, chairman of First Eastern.

Chu is a powerful figure in the region, having served as director and council member of the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. He is a foundation board member of the World Economic Forum in Geneva, and co-chairs the Forum’s International Business Council. He was also the man behind Sir Richard Branson’s failed bid to rescue the ailing British bank Northern Rock in 2007.

First Eastern has offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Dubai and London.

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