Shah Capital Management, a Raleigh-based investment firm with $250 million under management, is making a big bet on surging consumer demand in China.
The firm spent $12 million to buy a 14 percent stake in Symphony Holdings, a Hong Kong company that markets and licenses sports and apparel brand names such as Puma, Haggar and Speedo. The move makes Shah the largest institutional investor in Symphony.
"As you look at markets from a global perspective, Symphony Holdings has tremendous growth opportunities and is in a premier position to be a gateway to China for Western sports, activewear and fashion brands," said Himanshu H. Shah, president of Shah Capital.
Symphony didn't make money last year, but had more than $260 million of revenue and no debt, Shah said. He expects annual revenue to pass $1 billion in the next few years.
Unlike retail sales in the United States, which are shrinking during the recession, retail sales in China are increasing at 16 percent a year, he added.
Shah started his firm in Jan. 2005, picking Raleigh mostly because his wife grew up in this area and attended UNC-Chapel Hill. The firm now has seven employees.