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Yoga-apparel retailer Lululemon founder close to joining Chinese bid for Amer Sports: sources

[HONG KONG] The founder of yoga-apparel retailer Lululemon Athletica Inc is close to joining the Chinese investor group pursuing a takeover of Amer Sports Oyj, owner of brands including Wilson tennis rackets, people familiar with the matter said.

Canadian billionaire Chip Wilson is in talks to take around a 20 per cent stake as part of the consortium led by Anta Sports Products Ltd, according to the people. The buyer group and Helsinki-based Amer could announce a takeover agreement as soon as the next few weeks, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. Shares of Amer climbed by the most in almost three months.

Chinese Internet giant Tencent Holdings Ltd has been discussing joining the Anta consortium with a stake of roughly 5 to 10 per cent, the people said. Anta said in September it had teamed up with Chinese buyout firm FountainVest Partners to make an indicative offer valuing Amer at about 4.7 billion euros (S$5.3 billion).

Amer's portfolio of well-known sports brands, including Salomon ski boots, could be an attractive prospect for Anta ahead of the upcoming Olympic Games in Asia. The Finnish company also sells Louisville Slugger baseball bats, Arc'teryx outdoor gear and Atomic winter equipment.

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Anta, which has a market value of about US$12.6 billion, has been working to grow its business overseas amid a Chinese government push to expand in sports ranging from soccer to skiing. Negotiations are ongoing, and precise terms could change, the people said. No final decisions have been made, and the talks could still be delayed or fall apart, the people said.

A representative for the Chinese consortium said she couldn't immediately comment. Wilson couldn't immediately be reached. A spokesman for Tencent declined to comment, while a representative for Amer didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

Shares of Amer rose 5.5 per cent, the most since Sept 11, to 34.88 euros at the close Monday in Helsinki.

Wilson's holding company Hold It All Inc, which manages his family's investments and real estate, also has a private equity unit and a philanthropic arm. He stepped down from the board of Vancouver-based Lululemon in 2015, two years after resigning as chairman. Wilson has a net worth of about US$3.6 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.