The Bottom Line.
In this Asia-Pacific Insight, China expert Eleonore William continues to explore the development of globalized Chinese Groups with some notes on Fosun. Originally an investment consulting business, Fosun has over the years turned into a multinational and diversified group now focusing on health and happiness.
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Luxury in China: FOSUN, the development of an ecosystem “of happiness” around the family
[By Eleonore William]
Created by four students from Fudan University in Shanghai in 1992 under the name of ‘Guangxin Technology Development’, Fosun first provided market research and investment consulting services. The Chinese name of the company is pronounced “Fu-Xing” which means “Fudan star” and makes reference to the success of the four founding graduates.
Originally built from a modest capital of RMB 38.000, Fosun has gradually developed in sectors ranging from real estate to pharmaceuticals and leisure. Fosun currently owns more than a hundred companies and is one of the largest Chinese groups in the world (89/500 according to the “Fortune China 2018” ranking) as well as a major player on the international scene. The Group represented CNY 564 billion in revenue in mid-2018.
Fosun diversifying its investments to cover the three “ecosystems” of family happiness
Anchored in Shanghai, the Group is nowadays committed to providing families around the world with high-quality products and services and is on a mission to meet their health, wellness and wealth needs.
This is not Fosun’s original specialty, however, as the expertise only arose following a diversification strategy in its early years based on real estate and health development.
The Shanghai Fosun subsidiary Pharmaceutical was for instance created in 1994, whilst, in the real estate sector Fosun then became a leading player in just a few years. In fact, the group has now become a major private brick and mortar investor in many Chinese state-owned companies subject to restructuring plans.
In recent years, the group has however accelerated its investments in Chinese and international companies and has restructured its activities around three major “ecosystems”:
- Fosun & Health: development, manufacturing and sale of pharmaceutical products and medical equipment, with Fosun Pharma, Sinopharm, Fosun United Health Insurance, Luz Saude (Portuguese hospital chain), or Gland Pharma (Indian pharmaceutical company).
- Fosun & Happiness: leisure, fashion and cosmetics, with ClubMed, Atlantis Sanya, Yuyuan, Thomas Cook, Ahava (Israeli cosmetics brand) or Lanvin.
- Fosun & Assets: real estate, finance and insurance, with Fidelidade (Portuguese insurer), Banco Comercial Portugues, Hauck & Aufhäuser (German private bank), Peak Reinsurance or Mybank.
Fosun’s upmarket move to meet the new requirements of Chinese consumers
By positioning itself at the top end of the market, Fosun above all seeks to meet the expectations of a rapidly growing Chinese middle class eager for services, leisure and products that are both qualitative and exceptional.
This represents an opportunity for Fosun, because Chinese companies are still underdeveloped internationally as far as luxury goods are concerned. In effect, the Group has chosen to invest mainly in foreign companies and brands in order to acquire experience and know-how that can be used to its own future brands.
This strategy is embodied in particular in the fields of leisure and fashion. In 2009, the Fosun Tourism Group, also known as Foliday, was created to combine the Group’s acquisitions in the field of tourism while providing a leisure platform for Chinese customers in China, abroad or on the Internet.
In addition to leisure, the Chinese conglomerate is also betting on fashion with the creation in 2015 of Fosun Fashion Group, responsible for managing its assets in the fashion sector but also to invest in new flagship brands worldwide.
In line with this approach, Fosun is constantly increasing its shareholdings and acquisitions in top-of-the-range brands in the luxury market. This was for instance the case with the Italian brand Caruso, with Tom Tailor, St John, the Greek Folli Folli, Kutesmart, IRO, Wolford and recently with the French luxury brand Lanvin. To this extent, the Group has also just launched Fosun Fashion Brand Management CY, which aims in particular to support brands on the Chinese market to create value outside their market of origin.
Despite its international acquisitions, the group however appears to aim to preserve the identity and values of acquired companies while increasing their development potential, particularly on the Chinese market.
Innovation at the service of Fosun’s development strategy
Whether in the financial, health, fashion or leisure sectors, the group has overall decided to focus on innovation, in line with the country’s national strategy to move upmarket. In March 2018, it announced its wish to invest at least 20 billion CNY in the technology sector over the next three years. Fosun also bets on industrial unicorns by incubating and supporting them through investment.
Due to the wide diversification of its investments, the Group – like the other main conglomerates – has been the subject of an investigation by the Chinese authorities in 2015. The latter verified the sustainability of the development of the Group in a context of indebtedness of the Chinese economy. The group has however emerged strengthened in its strategy of development, which consists in becoming a global group rooted in its Chinese culture and offering services and high-quality products and at the forefront of innovation.
This insight was originally published in French in « La Lettre de la Chine Hors Les Murs » N°28, March 2019, by the French External Trade Advisors (Comite National des Conseillers du Commerce Exterieur).
Eleonore William | China Expert Contributor
Expert in China – France economic relations, Eleonore William is Head of Communication and Studies at the France China Committee, a major actor in the Franco-Chinese economic relation, gathering French enterprises active with China in the long-term.
Former Manager of the technical cooperation with China and with Sub-saharan Africa for the French ministries of Economy and Finance, Eleonore William has a 15 years experience as a specialist in business development, institutional and international relations and as an observer and analyst of China political and economic evolutions.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of their author(s) only and do not reflect those of The Asia-Pacific Circle or of its editors unless otherwise stated.
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