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Gold-Plated Golf Club Maker Plans IPO in Hong Kong

  • Company eyes growth in China, Korea as sport gains popularity
  • Chinese businessman Liu Jianguo bought delisted Honma in 2010

Honma Golf Ltd., a Japanese maker of high-end golfing equipment such as clubs plated with gold, is planning an initial public offering in Hong Kong to help fund acquisitions of brands in North America and Europe.

Honma, delisted in 2005 after filing for protection from creditors, was acquired by Chinese businessman Liu Jianguo in 2010, the company said in a pre-listing document filed with the Hong Kong Stock Exchange Wednesday. Liu’s holding company sold a 7.5 percent stake in Honma for $60 million to a Fosun International Ltd. unit last month, valuing it at about $800 million.

The company “may selectively acquire golf companies that enjoy higher brand awareness” as part of its expansion in North America and Europe, Honma said in the statement, without identifying targets. Calls to Honma’s headquarters in Tokyo and China offices in Shanghai weren’t answered.

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China, including Hong Kong and Macau, accounted for 18.7 percent of sales in the year ended March 2016, up from 12 percent two years earlier, while its Japan home market fell to 53 percent from 58 percent over the same period, the company said. It is seeking to further increase sales in China and South Korea where the sport is gaining popularity.

The company, whose clubs are used by China’s third-ranked golfer and last year’s winner of the Japan Golf Tour Liang Wen Chong, saw revenue grow 21 percent to 22.3 billion yen in the year ended March 2016, as it expanded its self-operated stores to 86.

Honma’s Chairman Liu is also head of closely held home appliance-maker Shanghai POVOS Enterprise (Group) Co. Ltd., and currently controls the Japanese company through his investment vehicle Kouunn Holdings Ltd. The 47-year-old turned the business around by focusing on luxury retail outlets, and premium golf gear such as $75,000 gold and platinum golf clubs.

Kouunn entered a deal to sell the 7.5 percent stake in Honma to Fosun Industrial Holdings Ltd., a unit of Hong Kong-listed Fosun International, according to Honma’s filing. Fosun’s founder Guo Guangchang is looking to invest in emerging markets for the first time as his conglomerate backs off of its buying spree in developed nations, the billionaire said in an interview last month.

— With assistance by Rachel Chang

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