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September 30, 2013 4:07 pm
KKR has highlighted the increasing appeal of Chinese consumer brands to foreign investors after it paid about $550m for a 10 per cent stake in Qingdao Haier, China’s largest refrigerator and washing machine maker by sales.
The investment – KKR’s largest in China – is not only a bet on increasing consumer spending, driven by the country’s growing middle class, but also a bet on a Chinese brand with rising international appeal in western markets.
The US private equity group, which raised a $6bn Asia-dedicated fund earlier this year – the largest pool of money amassed for private equity deals in the region – is buying shares through a placement at 11.29 renminbi each, a 15 per cent discount to the previous closing price.
KKR, which declined to say whether the investment is held in its latest Asia fund, is getting one of the nine seats on the company’s board.
Qingdao Haier, which owns the Haier, Casarte and Leader brands, is not only the market leader in its home market, but is also one of the world’s leading appliance makers by sales.
The Shanghai-listed company has made no secret of its appetite for overseas acquisitions.
Haier has said it aims to build a premium brand in Europe, rather than the lower end of the market traditionally associated with Chinese products that compete largely on price. The company has rapidly increased its market share in the region, but it is still in low single-digits and it now plans to expand by acquiring or building production facilities that will bring it closer to European consumers.
“We believe that KKR’s sufficient capital and rich experience in international mergers and acquisitions will accelerate the integration of Haier’s global white electric appliance platform,” Tan Li Xia, vice-chairman of Qingdao Haier, said in a statement on Monday.
Four years ago, Haier bought 20 per cent of Fisher & Paykel, the high-end appliance maker, to help it sell its products in developed markets at higher margins. Haier has since increased its stake to own a majority of the New Zealand-based company.
Haier, based in the seaside town of Qingdao and whose name was created from the Chinese character for “sea”, nearly went bust in the mid-1980s as a collectively owned factory. In 2012, it reported $13bn in sales and $534m in net income.
Zhang Ruimin, its founder and chief executive, won fame for an incident when, as newly appointed director of the collective Qingdao Refrigerator Factory in 1984, he smashed faulty models on the factory floor with a sledgehammer to demonstrate his zero tolerance policy for defects.
With additional reporting by Zhang Yan
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