Is Li-Ning entering the outdoor market by acquiring Haglöfs?

Over a year after the acquisition of British Shoemaker Clarks, Li Ning, the Chinese gymnast-turned-entrepreneur has his eyes set on the Swedish outdoor performance label Haglöfs. The Hong Kong-based private equity firm LionRock Capital, in which Li sits as a non-executive chairman, has acquired 100% of Haglöfs shares from ASICS Corporation. Li Ning is best known as the founder and chairman of his eponymous brand Li-Ning.

Haglöfs, based in Bromma, Sweden, was established in 1914 by carpenter Wiktor Haglöf. The brand makes outdoor wear, boots and sleeping bags, as well as accessories for outdoor enthusiasts such as skiers and hikers. Dealing in both apparel and lifestyle, Haglöfs has a presence in 28 countries, including China. ASICS has owned Haglöfs since 2010.

Some see the similarity between this move and the Clarks acquisition. LionRock acquired majority shares of Clarks in 2020. In 2022, Viva China, a company chaired by Li and owns 10.3% of Li-Ning, picked up a 51% stake in Clarks. At the time, the step was widely viewed as Li-Ning taking aim at domestic competitor Anta’s success with FILA, which it acquired in 2009.

It comes as no surprise that this acquisition by LionRock has sparked speculation about Li-Ning’s expansion into the outdoor market, in which Anta-owned brands like Arc’teryx and Salomon are making waves. Data shows that the outdoor sector has experienced explosive growth in 2023, with outdoor-related orders growing 79% year-on-year and 221% compared to the first half of 2019. With outdoor activity currently seeing a 28.3% penetration in China compared to over 50% globally, there is still potential to grow in the sector.

Li-Ning made it clear that currently, it does not participate in the management of Haglöfs as a partner of LionRock Capital but if Viva gets involved like with Clarks, it will bring Haglöfs closer to the group.


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