Shandong Ruyi Group’s deal to buy SMCP — corporate parent to the quickly growing Sandro, Maje and Claudie Pierlot chains — lessened the East-West divide in fashion, but it’s still too soon to call it the start of a new, more global trend.
Deep-pocketed Asian investors have for years been looking to buy fashion brands from the U.S. and Europe. Occasionally, they make a connection. China Haidian Holdings Ltd. bought high-end Swiss Watch company Montres Corum in an 80-million Swiss franc, or $85.2 million, deal in 2013. But for every signed deal, there’s host of other transactions that never goes through.
The most prominent recent example comes from outside fashion and in the world of hospitality, where a consortium of investors led by the Beijing-based insurance company Anbang dropped its bid to buy Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide.
The Jining-Paris marriage of Shandong and SMPC would bring benefits to both sides. Shandong said it plans to drive SMPC’s global growth, including in Asia, and “maintain the DNA and unique identity of the SMCP brands” and the firm’s “organizational structure.”
It also furthers the textile company’s own global ambition’s. Yafu Qiu, chairman of Shandong, said: “This would be a significant step for Shandong Ruyi Group in our continued endeavor to become a leader in the fully integrated textiles and fashion business both in China and globally.”
But it’s a combination that could be hard to replicate, if only because there are few fashion chains growing as quickly as SMCP that are for sale. The company, which has been majority owned by private-equity giant KKR since 2013, saw its revenues increase 33 percent last year to 675 million euros, or $748 million at average exchange rates.
There might not be lots of other businesses that click in the same way.
“There just aren’t attractive targets both financially and organizationally,” said A.T. Kearney consultant Adheer Bahulkar. “So many companies are in turmoil. So many companies have income statement issues, balance sheet issues. Since 2008 to 2009, many of the U.S. retailers have been in trouble and even the private-equity interest that you see in U.S. retail has primarily been focused on turnaround. This is not really the cross-border, especially Chinese company, buying style. They’re not in the turnaround mode.”
Typically, the acquisition activity has been focused on assets, such as real estate, or technologies.
“When you are buying other companies, you’re buying something tangible,” Bahulkar said. “With apparel, at the end of the day a lot of what they do is built into a group of people ultimately in terms of the designer and the merchants and a few folks. Just because you buy a brand or a retailer doesn’t necessarily give you control over those individual talents, so that’s also a big part of the risk in such an acquisition.”