Wedgwood plans China expansion

Wedgwood, one of the world’s best known china brands, is now betting big on China.

As news broke that Wedgwood’s parent company WWRD was being put on the market by its private equity owners, it emerged that the business is planning a “major” retail expansion in Hong Kong.

WWRD owns Waterford (crystal), Wedgwood and Royal Doulton china brands. It has 35 stores in China including two flagships in Shanghai.

Subsidiary Waterford Wedgwood Hong Kong is to buy the assets of its distributor Shanghai Balolong International Trade Co and through that process acquire a number of store leases.

That move alone will expand the store network to 56.

“The acquisition of a significant number of Waterford and Wedgwood retail stores from Baolong in China positions WWRD perfectly to engage and meet the needs of affluent Chinese consumers,” group VP Jim Harding said in a statement.

“This announcement comes at the right time with 2015 set to mark a growing vision for our brands as we continue our commitment to developing the business globally as a leader in luxury goods.”

WWRD, founded in 1759, was rescued by US private equity company KPS Capital back in 2009 when it collapsed beneath a massive € 800 million burden of debts and pension liabilities.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs has been appointed to undertake an auction of the business which promises a substantial return on the £82 million it spent acquiring the assets. The business achieved annual sales of US$450 million last financial year and it posted a £36 million profit.

The financial press tips significant interest in the bidding from Asian investors, given 40 per cent of the group’s revenues come from Asia. A significant number of the group’s products are now manufactured in Indonesia, although the company recently commissioned a new plant in the UK.

In a statement WWRD said: “As a profitable and strongly performing global business under private equity ownership, options for the next phase of growth are constantly under review. KPS Capital Partners remains firmly committed to achieving the brightest possible future for the brands and employees of WWRD.”



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