Chinese sports brand Anta goes global as it takes on Nike and Adidas

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SHANGHAI / HONG KONG / TOKYO – Anta Sports Products, a minor league outside of China, buys the Finnish owner of sports brands like Wilson for 4.6 billion euros ($ 5.17 billion), seeking to compete with Nike and Adidas in both home and remote markets.

The Chinese firm’s acquisition of Amer Sports serves as a recognition that it cannot rely on the domestic market for growth, even as regulators in Beijing have cracked down on foreign acquisitions by domestic companies.

“Anta is cheaper than Nike, and the performance of their products is not bad. I like them very much,” said Li Liang, a 20-year-old college student who bought a pair of basketball shoes from the store. the company in Shanghai. this month.

Anta, originally known for providing shoes to popular badminton players, has become a household name in China. The sportswear maker aims to boost its recognition abroad, having already signed a shoe deal with basketball star Klay Thompson of the NBA Golden State Warriors.

Founded in 1994, Anta now has 12,000 stores in China after riding a wave of enthusiasm for sports and health after the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Sales in 2018 soared 44% to 24.1 billion yuan ($ 3.58 billion).

Nike and Adidas remain far ahead, however, not only on the world stage but also in China. Nike leads the Chinese market with 22.1%, followed by Adidas with 18.6% and Anta in third position with 10.4%.

Anta is expecting a helping hand from the Finnish Amer.

“With the acquisition of Amer, the future of Anta’s global expansion will definitely change,” CEO Ding Shizhong told reporters in late February.

Golden State Warriors goalie Klay Thompson wears Anta Sports basketball shoes. © Reuters

Amer, founded in 1950, had sales of around 2.68 billion euros last year. Although smaller than Anta, the Finnish company owns several well-known brands, including Wilson, who recently signed a sponsorship deal with Japanese tennis star Kei Nishikori, as well as ski brands Salomon and Atomic.

A consortium of investors led by Anta and Chinese internet company Tencent Holdings launched a takeover bid late last year for Amer, which was largely receptive to the deal. Anta said on Friday that nearly 95% of its shareholders approved the offer. The completion of the acquisition is expected to be announced shortly.

This is not Anta’s first encounter with a foreign company. It bought the Chinese activities of Italian brand Fila in 2009 and helped Japanese sportswear manufacturer Descente expand to China through a joint venture with Itochu in 2016.

Ding d’Anta and his family are Descente’s second largest shareholder, with a stake of nearly 7%. Itochu’s take-over bid for Descente, which is expected to be decided as early as this week, would suit Anta as a partner. A further expansion of the Japanese brand in China is planned.

Anta plans to expand its overseas operations all at once, even at the expense of relying on other brands, including those acquired through Amer. But it’s still unclear how China’s emerging companies will fare in the global sports market. Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning’s campaign to open its own stores in Europe, the United States and Southeast Asia ended unsuccessfully after its brand awareness failed to increase.

As Anta digs her toes into foreign waters, however, Chinese regulators have moved to curb large overseas purchases by domestic companies over concerns over capital flight. The government demanded that all overseas acquisitions over $ 50 million undergo preliminary reviews at the end of 2016, which led to a drop in large purchases by Chinese companies the following year. Wanda Group’s acquisition of a major US film studio was among the deals hampered by the new rules.

Anta’s approximately $ 5.2 billion deal for Amer has so far managed to pass through Chinese authorities. Regulators are likely to approve more foreign deals to support growth as the Chinese economy slows and domestic companies reach their limits at home.


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