* Agrees to buy Aquascutum for 15 mln pounds
* Second Chinese acquisition of a British brand this month
* Aquascutum administrators say deal will save over 100 jobs
By Adveith Nair and Donny Kwok
LONDON/HONG KONG, May 10 YGM Trading Ltd
has agreed to buy Aquascutum, the failed luxury
clothes maker that has dressed royalty and politicians, for 15
million pounds ($24 million) in the second Chinese acquisition
of a venerable British brand this month.
Cash-rich Chinese investors are picking up European assets
as the region grapples with a sovereign debt crisis, slowing
economic growth, depressed stock market valuations and a dearth
of deal-making capacity among potential buyers closer to home.
Fashion retailer YGM's deal comes barely a week after
Chinese state-owned Bright Food agreed on May 3 to buy a
controlling stake in privately held Weetabix, the 80-year-old
breakfast cereal maker that coined the slogan "Have you had your
Other recent high-profile Chinese acquisitions include
machinery maker Shandong Heavy Industry Group's deal to take
over debt-laden Italian luxury yacht maker Ferretti.
The 161-year-old Aquascutum, which has dressed Britain's
Queen Elizabeth and former prime ministers Winston Churchill
and Margaret Thatcher, is the latest high-profile fashion name
hit by the country's retail downturn.
Founded by tailor John Emary in 1851, Aquascutum's brand
rose to fame before celebrity advertising became mainstream,
helped by its long association with the British royal family.
After King Edward VII first bought an Aquascutum coat in
1897, the slick and expensive rain coats became popular with
aristocrats, political leaders and movie stars. The likes of
Humphrey Bogart were often seen wearing the iconic brand.
But in recent years it has struggled, recording financial
losses and teetering on the brink of failure, while bigger
British luxury companies like Burberry and Mulberry
became global brands.
Hopes for a turnaround were also hampered by the fact the
company's royalty rights for the Asian market, a high-growth
area for luxury goods, have belonged to YGM since 2009.
YGM - which also distributes men's and ladies' wear under
brands including Michel René, Guy Laroche, Charles Jourdan,
Ashworth, and J.Lindeberg - said the acquisition was beneficial,
given the substantial potential for Aquascutum's development.
Trading in YGM shares was suspended earlier on Thursday.
FRP Advisory - which said in April that two of its partners
had been named administrators of Aquascutum - said the sale,
which includes the UK stores, concessions and head office
operations, would safeguard jobs of more than 100 employees.
FRP added they were continuing to deal with interested
parties regarding a sale of the factory based in Corby, which
they hope to achieve within the next two weeks.
Retailers in China, including menswear group Trinity Ltd
, have been snapping up high-end European brands as
Chinese consumers demand better quality in everything from suits
and handbags, to shoes and yachts.
The Chinese government has said it wants the country's
companies to buy top brands as a shortcut to global success.