LVMH-Backed Buyout Firm Invests in Top Chinese Gym Chain Will’s | News & Analysis

SINGAPORE, Singapore — Consumer-focused private equity firm L Catterton Asia is investing in Will’s Group, one of China’s biggest private gym operators, in a bet that yoga and body pump classes will take off in the country.

The private equity firm, which is backed by luxury giant LVMH, is making a “significant” investment in Will’s, according to an emailed statement Friday. Financial terms weren’t disclosed. Bloomberg News reported in September that a consortium including L Catterton Asia was nearing a deal to spend about $400 million for a controlling stake in Will’s.

Buyout firms have been betting that rising incomes in greater China will translate into higher spending on health and sports. Last year, an investor group backed by China’s FountainVest Partners agreed to buy Pure Group, the billionaire-backed gym chain. The deal valued the Hong Kong company at more than $400 million, people with knowledge of the matter have said.

The number of sports clubs in China is expected to increase 12 percent to around 10,960 locations by 2020, up from about 9,780 at the end of last year, according to forecasts from consultancy Euromonitor International.

Will’s, founded in 1996, operates more than 130 fitness clubs serving almost 400,000 members in 12 Chinese cities, according to Friday’s statement. The transaction adds to the $84 billion of private equity deals announced this year involving Chinese targets, data compiled by Bloomberg show.

L Catterton Asia’s portfolio already includes Crystal Jade, the Singapore-based dim sum restaurant chain, and Australian swimwear retailer Seafolly, according to its website.

By Joyce Koh, Vinicy Chan and Carol Zhong; editors: Ben Scent, Neha D’silva and Timothy Sifert.


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