Fanatics Inc, the world’s biggest licensed sports merchandise retailer, said on Thursday it is expanding into China through a joint venture with local private equity firm Hillhouse Capital Group, as the SoftBank-backed e-commerce platform mulls a potential public listing later this year.
The move by Jacksonville, Florida-based Fanatics, whose annual revenue tops $3 billion, is a bet on what the company sees as untapped demand in China for sports equipment and apparel. Fanatics operates online stores and sells products for over 300 teams, brands and leagues from Manchester United and Nike to America’s National Football League.
Currently, one tenth of Fanatics’ sales comes from outside the United States. The global licensed sports merchandise market is estimated to be worth $25 billion. Fanatics believes the Chinese market is “grossly underserved” and could be worth $3-5 billion. The company, which has seen strong online sales growth during the pandemic, raised $350 million at a $6.2 billion valuation last August.
By Krystal Hu, Richa Naidu
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