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Chinese Group to Buy Wilson Tennis Racket Maker for $5.2 Billion

A Chinese consortium is acquiring the Finish group Amer Sports Oyj to tap into the Chinese luxury specialised sportswear market.
Wilson tennis racket and ball | Source: Shutterstock
By
  • Bloomberg

HELSINKI, Finland — A Chinese investor group led by Anta Sports Products reached a $5.2 billion deal to acquire the maker of Wilson tennis rackets and Louisville Slugger baseball bats, as it seeks to bring high-end athletic equipment to China's wealthy consumers.

The consortium, which includes Chinese buyout firm FountainVest Partners, will offer shareholders of Finland’s Amer Sports Oyj €40 a share in cash, or about €4.6 billion. The deal is the largest struck by a Chinese acquirer for a European asset since China Investment Corporation agreed to buy Logicor Europe for almost $14 billion in June 2017, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Significant minority investors in the consortium also include Chip Wilson, the billionaire founder of yoga-apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica and Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings.

China Focus

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China has become a major focus for makers of luxury products, as companies target an increasingly wealthy middle class. Athletic-goods companies such as Adidas AG are also seeking to tap into a growing interest in healthy lifestyles among the nation’s consumers.

Anta, China’s biggest athletic-apparel producer, is seeking acquisitions of well-established global brands as it works to increase its business overseas. The Chinese government is pushing to expand in sports ranging from soccer to skiing, as well as the industries that supply equipment for competitors and weekend enthusiasts.

Amer’s portfolio of well-known brands, including Salomon ski boots, Arc’teryx outdoor gear and Atomic winter equipment, is an attractive prospect for Anta ahead of the coming Olympic Games in Asia. Beijing will host the Winter Olympics in 2022, providing a springboard for sales of skis and snowboards, while the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo will offer a showcase for other Amer brands.

“We are excited to bring these premium international brands and products to Chinese consumers, who increasingly seek high-end products with outstanding qualities and heritage in various niche and specialised sports segments,” Anta Sports chief executive Ding Shizhong said in a statement.

The offer price represents a 14 percent premium over Amer’s closing stock price on Wednesday, and is almost double Amer’s valuation a year ago. Amer shares rose as much as 9.4 percent to €38.50 in Helsinki.

Amer Sports was advised by Goldman Sachs Group on the transaction, while Citigroup worked with Anta Sports, FountainVest and the group of buyers.

Growth Opportunity

“Under the ownership of the investor consortium, there is an opportunity to continue to deliver our strong sustainable profitable growth with further acceleration in our strategic priorities including soft goods, direct-to-consumer and China,” Amer Sports chief executive Heikki Takala said in the statement.

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After completion of the deal, the consortium plans for Amer Sports to be operated independently from Anta, with Takala and other executives continuing to lead the business.

The consortium said it aims to expand Amer Sports’s business in the Chinese market using Anta’s distribution network, research-and-development resources and manufacturing capabilities.

Anta Sports could raise Amer’s revenue contribution from the country to 10 percent by 2020 from the current 6 percent, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Catherine Lim.

Anta said in September it had teamed up with FountainVest to make an indicative offer for Amer at €40 a share. That news sent the Finnish company’s stock soaring 19 percent, its biggest one-day jump ever.

Amer Sports’s board has unanimously recommended the Anta’s tender offer to shareholders. The deal is expected to be completed during the second quarter of 2019 at the latest.

By Jeff Sutherland with assistance from Ben Scent; editors: K. Oanh Ha, John J. Edwards III, Eric Pfanner.

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