Nike may buy rival to boost Asian business: report

China-made sneakers are displayed inside a store in China's southern city of Guangzhou February 17, 2008. REUTERS/Joseph Chaney

BERLIN (Reuters) - Nike Inc could buy a Chinese or Japanese rival to strengthen its presence in Asia, the brand president of the world’s largest maker of athletic footwear and apparel told a German newspaper.

Asked in an interview with Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung whether Nike planned to buy an Asian brand such as China’s Li Ning, Brand President Charlie Denson said: “There could indeed be a takeover in China or Japan.”

“However, our main focus is first to build Nike up in China,” he was quoted as saying in the newspaper’s Wednesday edition. “The strengthening of our other brands there, such as Converse or Umbro, will follow.”

Denson told the paper Nike would “look very closely in the future at everything that could fit with us”.

“But our most important task is to allow the Nike brand to grow,” he said.

Li Ning was founded by and named after the Chinese gymnast who won three gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games.

Reporting by Iain Rogers; editing by Rory Channing