Jeweller Graff launches Hong Kong IPO roadshow

High-end London-based jeweller Graff Diamonds on Monday launched the roadshow for its reported $1.0 billion initial public offering in Hong Kong, one of the biggest this year.

Graff Diamonds Founder and Chairman Laurence Graff and Chief Executive Officer Francois Graff met potential investors at a hotel in the southern Chinese city, but did not speak to reporters.

In a filing to the Hong Kong stock exchange, the company said it made $623.5 million in retail sales last year compared with $454.3 million the year before, as revenue growth rebounded from a slump induced by the 2008 financial crisis.

Britain accounted for more than half of total retail revenues, but Asia's contribution more than doubled to $120 million, it said, adding that net profit grew more than 15 percent to $120.1 million.

The company planned to open five more directly operated stores selling jewellery and watches in Asia this year, in addition to the 18 it already operates around the world.

Expansion of the Asian retail network, development of Graff as an "iconic brand" and developing the watch business were central to the company's strategy.

Among the risks for investors, the company cited the importance of a tiny group of 20 top customers, who had accounted for more than 40 percent of group revenue for the past three years.

The roadshow is due to continue until May 31 when the IPO will be priced, according to a term sheet seen by Dow Jones Newswires.

The IPO is set to be one of this year's biggest share sales after China's second largest brokerage Haitong Securities last month raised $1.68 billion from its Hong Kong IPO.

The jeweller's listing in Hong Kong will enable it to raise its profile in Asia and tap the fast-growing luxury goods market on mainland China.

China is forecast to be the world's top buyer of products such as cosmetics, handbags, watches, shoes and clothes by 2015, PriceWaterhouseCoopers has said.

Graff Diamonds' presence in Asia includes boutiques in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo and Taipei. It is planning to open three flagship stores in the Chinese city of Hangzhou, Macau and Dubai this year, according to its website.

The jeweller will join other luxury brands using Hong Kong as a gateway to the burgeoning Chinese market, after the listings by Prada of Italy, US handbag maker Coach and US luggage maker Samsonite.

The slew of luxury firms seeking to list in Hong Kong are a sign of Asia's growing appetite for designer goods, especially among cash-rich Chinese.

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