Japanese investment fund Integral to acquire apparel company Itokin

YarnsandFibers News Bureau 2016-02-13 16:00:00 – Tokyo

Japanese investment fund Integral will acquire apparel company Itokin for an estimated 16.5 billion yen ($144 million) to lead its turnaround efforts. Itokin, the struggling Japanese apparel giant's decision to get help from investment fund Integral in its rehabilitation efforts came as the company faced the prospect of imminent insolvency.

The company said that Integral will obtain new shares in Itokin via a private placement for 4.5 billion yen ($39.5 million) on Feb. 26 and gain 98% in voting rights. The fund will appoint three directors to Itokin's board to oversee the operations.

With the rise of specialty retailers of private-label brands such as Fast Retailing, known for its Uniqlo brand, traditional apparel companies like Itokin have struggled also may traditional apparel companies have been losing market shares. Department stores, the main sales channel, have seen substantial declines in apparel sales over the past five years.

Slow to restructure operations, Itokin bled red ink for four straight years through January 2015. The company finally took action at the end of 2015, when concern grew that it may not be able to get through February, when it has to make many payments for spring items procured, according to an official of a department-store operator.

Itokin asked domestic investment funds and others for help, and main lender Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ apparently offered assistance. Itokin has been managed by founding family members including current President Akio Tsujimura, but it has now accepted a third-party-led rehabilitation plan because it had no means of getting more loans to avoid insolvency. Many investment funds likely showed interest. Even those with no experience investing in the apparel business stepped forward. Itokin's latest move may affect actions by rivals, too.

Integral plans to reduce Itokin’s brands to around 20 from the current 28, and consolidate stores to about 1,000 from 1,400. At the same time, it will promote mainstay brands such as Hiroko Koshino and Michel Klein through store renovations. By pouring resources into e-commerce as well,

Integral hopes to make the company profitable in the year ending in January 2017. The fund plans to raise the corporate value over three to five years, with possible plans to list it on the stock market.

Integral, founded in 2007, has invested in airline Skymark and apparel company Yohji Yamamoto, among others.

Running an apparel company is not simple with various influences such as weather and changes in fashions at play, few Japanese apparel companies have rehabilitated with a plan led by an outsider.

Struggling Japanese apparel maker Renown Inc is also halfway to recovery after selling a controlling stake in its business to Chinese textile firm Shandong Ruyi Science & Technology Group Co tot get back on its feet. However, it is planning to open at least 2,000 shops in China over the next decade.

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