It’s not easy to be a China investor these days. The prospect of prolonged trade and military tension between Washington and Beijing, a perception that China’s four decades of economic and social reform are in retreat, and the spectacle of mass protests in Hong Kong are giving pause to many foreign businesses when it comes to new commitments. At a time of flux, one Canadian billionaire is notably buying $100 million of shares in the country’s top sports brand.
Anta Sports Products has used international partnerships with the likes of NBA star Klay Thompson and boxer Manny Pacquiao to surge past its China rivals such as Li Ning. Just this year, the Fujian-headquartered company led a group that paid $5.2 billion for Amer of Scandinavia, whose globally well-known brands include Atomic ski equipment, Salomon ski boots and Wilson tennis rackets, among others.
On Wednesday, Anta announced its latest international tie-up. Chip Wilson, the founder of athletic apparel brand Lululemon, has agreed to pay HK$778 million, or $100 million, for 0.6% stake in Anta at a price of HK$49.11 a share.
Anta said the sale of new shares to Wilson “represents a valuable opportunity for the company to bring in a renowned investor with strong financial resources and an extensive business network.” Wilson is worth $4 billion on the Forbes Real-Time Billionaires List, making him one of the world’s most successful businesspeople.
Today, at least, Anta investors were less than impressed. Anta’s stock fell by 4.1% today to HK$52.85 in Hong Kong. Their price is down from a recent peak of HK$57, though up more than a fifth from a year ago amid optimism about demand ahead of upcoming Olympic games in Japan and China.
Wilson’s career in apparel started when his founded Westbeach Snowboarding in 1979. He founded Lululemon in 1998; it went public in 2007 and today has a market capitalization of $18 billion. Wilson is the biggest individual shareholder but no longer chairman.