LONDON — Onward Kashiyama, the Tokyo-based fashion manufacturer, retailer and distributor, has purchased 100 percent of Joseph in a deal valuing the U.K. retailer at $258 million, or 140 million pounds.

“We have known Onward Kashiyama for many years as our men’s wear partner in Japan, and the combination offers significant advantages to Joseph, especially in respect of expansion in the Far East,” said Joseph’s managing director Thierry Letrilliart in a statement Monday.

Joseph is one of the U.K.’s leading designer-label retailers and a wholesaler of its own private label. Founded in the Seventies by Joseph Ettedgui, it has 63 stores, mainly in the U.K. and continental Europe.

Onward owns such labels as ICB, or International Concept Brand, and has a stake in the Florence-based clothing manufacturer Gibo. It also distributes clothing for designers including Michael Kors, Calvin Klein and Jean Paul Gaultier.

Industry sources said the sale came at the end of an “extremely competitive” auction and that the new owners are keen on tapping Joseph’s potential for international growth, especially in the Far East.

“They feel they can expand the brand aggressively in the Japanese market, and they’re also looking to grow it in Hong Kong and China,” said an industry source.

Meanwhile, the statement went on to say that Joseph’s sales increased 3 percent to $129 million, or 70.3 million pounds, in the fiscal year ended in March.

It added that EBITDA, or earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, gained 34 percent to $24 million, or 13.3 million pounds.

The company said the current fiscal year has started with a bang: Retail sales are “substantially ahead” of last year’s, and the autumn wholesale order book is up 12 percent up, compared with last year.

As reported, in November Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille, the investment company that held a 54 percent stake in Joseph, gave a mandate to BNP Paribas to conduct a strategic review, with the aim of selling the company.

In mid-February, the financial documents went out to potential bidders, with industry sources estimating the value of the company at $184 million, or 100 million pounds.

This story first appeared in the May 17, 2005 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

It is unclear whether Joseph and his brother Franklin, who sold their minority stakes in the company to Onward, will continue to be involved in the day-to-day running of the business. A spokesman for Joseph did not return phone calls Monday.

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