Byline: Kavita Daswani

HONG KONG — The conglomerate bug has hit retail here.
Joyce Boutique Holdings and Lane Crawford — two of Asia’s most prestigious retailers — are siblings, since Wheelock and Co., one of Hong Kong’s largest public companies and Lane Crawford’s parent, last week announced that it was taking a controlling share in Joyce.
Joyce and Lane Crawford will be run as two separate entities, and in spite of Wheelock’s controlling stake in Joyce, it will still be an autonomous, family-run chain, according to the company.
The announcement follows the collapse of a deal that was to have put Joyce in the hands of Bermuda-based Internet company Strategic Capital Group.
Under the new arrangement, Wheelock will invest approximately $26.3 million for 820 million new shares in Joyce, for a 51 percent majority stake. (U.S. dollar figures are converted from Hong Kong dollars at current exchange rates.) Joyce founder Joyce Ma, her husband, Walter, and their daughter, Adrienne — who is also Joyce’s managing director — will retain a 23 percent share in the restructured company, plus complete creative control.
“We are delighted to be collaborating with Wheelock,” said Adrienne Ma. “The partnership not only gives us a solid platform to implement our expansion program, it also gives us great business leverage to pursue a wider business spectrum that was previously not possible.”
Joyce, which was established in 1970, now operates a total of 28 retail locations for international fashion brands here and in Taiwan. Its top sellers include Hugo Boss, Yves Saint Laurent, Jil Sander, Costume National, Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake.
Lane Crawford, which this year celebrates its 150th birthday, has four doors here, plus speciality accessories boutiques and 16 designer boutiques here and in China and Singapore. Names under the Lane Crawford umbrella include Sergio Rossi, Michael Kors, Alberta Ferretti and St John.
Industry sources said the acquisition marked something of a coup for Wheelock, whose traditional interests lie in telecommunications, property and hotels. As of March 31, the company posted group profits of $92.6 million. With glamorous Joyce now in its portfolio, Wheelock has achieved a new edge in its retail holdings.
“The new partnership with Joyce complements our retail sector portfolio, giving us a majority market share of the franchised high to mid-fashion brand sector unmatched in the region,” said Gonzaga Li, Wheelock’s chairman, in a statement.
Adrienne Ma said the investment would help to “immediately accelerate” the retail network of ad:hoc, its younger boutique line, and Joyce Beauty in Hong Kong and Taiwan. It will also step up the launch of Joyce.com, which will primarily be a content/information-based site, “with an e-commerce intention for the future, for appropriate products,” she said.
Bonnie Brooks, senior vice president of sales and marketing for Lane Crawford, took a more harmonized view.
“We are anticipating that a strategic alliance between Lane Crawford and Joyce will give us an enormous regional competitive advantage. Together we are a formidable combination.”

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