* PPR makes first acquisition in China
* Qeelin sales estimated at around 30 mln euros
* PPR wants to develop brand, mostly in China
By Pascale Denis
PARIS, Dec 10 French retailer PPR
unveiled its first acquisition in China - a majority stake in
fine jeweller Qeelin - and said more small deals could follow in
the region, a key market for luxury goods.
The deal, whose terms were not disclosed, also beefs up
PPR's presence in the jewellery market, where it already owns
French brand Boucheron.
"The brand is small in view of its size but big in view of
the potential of the Chinese and Asian markets," Alexis Babeau,
managing director of PPR's luxury division, told a conference
call on Monday.
The transaction highlighted PPR's strategy of focusing on
small brands with strong potential that can best be tapped with
the backing of a luxury giant.
PPR, the world's third-largest luxury group behind French
peer LVMH and Swiss company Richemont, is
also following rival luxury groups in investing in China.
Richemont bought a controlling stake in Chinese upscale
designer Shanghai Tang in 1998. French group Hermes
created Chinese label Shang Xia, which makes traditionally
inspired jewellery and furniture is set to open its first Paris
store in 2013.
European luxury goods groups have been increasingly relying
on affluent shoppers from Asia, particularly China, and their
appetite for high-end brands to drive sales at a time of muted
growth in Europe.
Babeau said Qeelin's sales were close to the 34 million
euros ($44 million) generated by Italian luxury goods maker
Bottega Veneta when PPR bought it in 2001.
CA Cheuvreux analysts pegged Qeelin's enterprise value at
around 70 million euros.
Qeelin was founded in 2004 by Chinese designer Dennis Chan
and French entrepreneur Guillaume Brochard.
The label uses mythical and Chinese symbols such as lions,
pandas, and dragons to make pieces of luxury jewellery which
sell for around 4,000 euros, on average.
Headquartered in Hong Kong, Qeelin employs 50 people
worldwide and operates seven boutiques in mainland China, four
in Hong Kong, and three in Europe. It is also distributed in
trendy stores such as Colette in Paris and Restir in Tokyo.
"We have great ambitions for the brand and will make it
benefit from our expertise and know-how so that it can speed up
its development," PPR chairman and chief executive
Francois-Henri Pinault said. PPR plans to develop Qeelin's store
network, mostly in China.
($1 = 0.7735 euro)
(Additional reporting by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Dan