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China footwear retail unit files for Hong Kong IPO to raise $1 billion

China footwear retail unit files for Hong Kong IPO to raise $1 billion
By Reuters
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HONG KONG (Reuters) - Chinese footwear retailer Belle International filed plans on Thursday to spin off its sportswear business via a Hong Kong initial public offering, a deal which two sources with knowledge of the matter said could raise $1 billion.

The company aims to list the unit Topsports International Holdings Ltd, a large Chinese distributor and retail partner of foreign brands Nike Inc <NKE.N> and Adidas <ADSGn.DE>, in the second half of the year, said the sources.

The move comes two years after a consortium led by Hillhouse Capital Group and CDH Investments took Belle private in a $6.8 billion deal completed in July 2017, as traditional retailers battled online competition.

TopSports did not immediately respond to Reuters' request for comment on its IPO plans. The sources declined to be named as they were not authorized to talk to the media.

The Hong Kong market is beginning to see a rise in IPO activity, with the world's biggest brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev likely to launch the Hong Kong float of its Asian business, which could raise at least $5 billion, next month.

Hong Kong is lagging behind the New York Stock Exchange and Nasdaq in raising capital via IPOs this year, with $8.06 billion raised as of mid-June compared with a combined $28.2 billion raised by the U.S. exchanges, Refinitiv data showed.

Established in 1991, Belle produces shoes under its own brands such as Belle and Staccato, and distributes other foreign labels such as Puma, Converse, Timberland and The North Face.

Belle's unit Topsports is the largest sportswear retailer in China in terms of retail sales value, with a 15.9% market share in 2018, the company said in its IPO prospectus, citing consultant Frost & Sullivan.

Topsports' revenue increased 22.4% last year to 26.5 billion yuan (3.04 billion pounds), while gross profit rose nearly 18% to 11 billion yuan, it said in the prospectus.

It plans to use some of the IPO proceeds for technology, hiring staff, purchasing equipment and upgrading its directly operated stores. Its nationwide retail network included 8,343 such stores as of end-February.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley are the joint sponsors for the float.

(Reporting by Julie Zhu; Editing by Sumeet Chatterjee and Jan Harvey)

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