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FB Roundup: Ding Shizhong, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Johann Rupert

FB Roundup: Ding Shizhong, Mike Cannon-Brookes, Johann Rupert
In this week’s FB Roundup, Ding Shizhong leads a buyout of luxury linen maker Frette; Mike Cannon-Brookes progresses with his clean energy exportation plan; and Johann Rupert blames rising inflation for a hit on the luxury products market.
By Glen Ferris
Ding Shizhong

Ding Shizhong leads buyout of luxury linen maker Frette
A consortium co-led by Chinese billionaire Ding Shizhong has reportedly bought the 163-year-old Italian luxury linen maker Frette for €200 million.

Established in 1860 in Grenoble, France, and relocated to Concorezzo, Italy, in 1865, the renowned family-run company was founded by Jean Baptiste Edmond Frette and two partners. Throughout its storied history, Frette became official purveyors to the Italian royal family, dressed the banquet room of the Titanic and its products are still used on the Orient Express today. 

Until 1999, Frette was owned by the descendants of Edmond Frette’s Italian backers, when it was sold to a private equity firm. JH Partners latterly acquired Frette in 2005 and now Ding Shizhong, the chairman of Anta Sports Products, has led a new bid to take the renowned company forward. 

According to Bloomberg, Ding (who has a net worth of $7.3 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaire Index) shepherded the deal through a personal investment vehicle and was joined in the consortium by Adrienne Marie Ma, the former president of Joyce Boutique Group, among others.

Change Capital Partners, the private equity firm founded by former Marks & Spencer Group chairman Luc Vandevelde, said in a statement that JH Partners has sold its 100% interest in Frette to Raza Heritage Holdings, a “consortium of strategic and private equity investors in the consumer segment.” 

Frette has 34 flagship stores across the world, including two in mainland China, and provides products to more than 1,000 luxury hotels including the Ritz-Carlton, Peninsula and Rosewood chains, according to the company’s website. Listed among its catalogue of products are duvet covers costing $3,400 and bath towels at $270 per item. 

Mike Cannon-Brookes

Mike Cannon-Brookes progresses with clean energy exportation plan
Australian tech tycoon and climate activist Mike Cannon-Brookes is reportedly forging ahead with plans to export clean energy from Australia to Singapore and Indonesia through a 4,200km submarine cable, after his former partner, mining billionaire Andrew Forrest, pulled out citing the project as no longer “commercially viable”.

Grok Ventures, Cannon-Brookes’ family investment arm, is said to have completed the acquisition of SunCable from administration and is “advancing talks with authorities in both Singapore and Indonesia”, according to a statement.

An updated plan for the project, which includes building a manufacturing plant for high-voltage subsea cables to serve both the project and energy transmission developments globally, “has all the component parts to make the next great Australian infrastructure initiative possible”, said Cannon-Brooks in a statement. “There’s huge upside for both Australia and our neighbours.”

SunCable will source power from a giant solar farm in the Northern Territory to supply the Australian city of Darwin, as well as Indonesia and Singapore. According to a forecast by Grok, SunCable aims to “deliver at least an initial 900 megawatts of electricity supply to local industry around Darwin and 1.7 gigawatts for export to Singapore. The project aims to subsequently add a further three gigawatts for Australian customers.”

Cannon-Brookes, who has long touted clean energy as a significant step towards combating the climate crisis, has hailed SunCable as both a viable solution to alleviate Asia reliance of fossil fuel and, despite Forrest’s reported misgivings, an economically sound alternative. “It is by far, I think, the cheapest way to export energy from Australia in volume and at affordable prices,” said Cannon-Brookes.

According to reports, Grok Ventures “aims to lodge a submission with Singapore’s Energy Market Authority for a conditional energy import licence this month. Negotiations are ongoing with Indonesia over the use of its territorial waters to lay cables”.

Johann Rupert

Johann Rupert blames rising inflation for hit on luxury products
Billionaire businessman Johann Rupert, the founder and chairman of Richemont, which owns luxury jewellery and watchmaking company Cartier among others, has said that the rising cost of inflation is starting to hit luxury demand in Europe.

“In Europe, ongoing inflation is starting to impact local demand,” the South African tycoon told shareholders at the company’s annual meeting in Geneva, blaming persistent higher prices for a drop in sales. “We’ve seen the squeeze.”

Rupert – the son of Anton Rupert, who founded the tobacco and industrial conglomerate Rembrandt Group – said “European households in some countries were spending a higher percentage of their income on basic necessities than they had in the past decade,” according to The National.

The statement follows a warning from Richemont earlier this year that demand in the US and China, two of the biggest markets for luxury goods, was starting to feel the squeeze. 

Rupert controls the Swiss-based Richemont through a trust that owns the majority of voting shares and manages a portfolio of high-end brands including A. Lange & Söhne, Baume & Mercier, Buccellati, Chloé, Dunhill, Jaeger-LeCoultre, Montblanc, Van Cleef & Arpels, Delvaux and more.

Despite luxury sales seeing a boom during the Covid-19 pandemic, thanks in part to low interest rates and travel restrictions, Rupert expects disruptions in the luxury goods market to persist: “We cannot expect that, after ten years of excesses, to return to normality in a year or two. It’s going to take longer,” he said.

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