September 8, 2017 / 12:03 AM / 15 days ago

LVMH-backed PE fund buys a piece of South Korean style

SEOUL (Reuters) - A private equity firm backed by French luxury goods giant LVMH (LVMH.PA) has invested in South Korean startup sunglass maker Gentle Monster, banking on the Korean pop culture boom to fuel sales of the country’s luxury brands.

Ravi Thakran, chairman and managing partner of L Catterton Asia, said the company had become the second-biggest shareholder of IICOMBINED, the owner and operator of Gentle Monster, after its two founders.

He did not disclose the value of the transaction. Media have reported the deal would be worth about 60 billion won ($53.17 million).

It is the firm’s third investment in South Korea after it bought minority stakes in Clio Cosmetics (237880.KQ) and YG Entertainment (122870.KQ).

L Catterton pursued the deal in the face of political tensions between South Korea and China that have dented sales of South Korean products like cosmetics and forced South Korean singers to cancel performances in China, hitting the profits of Clio and YG Entertainment.

The row had affected only low- and mid-end products and had not impacted Gentle Monster, Thakran said.

Founded in 2011, Gentle Monster surged in popularity in South Korea and China - traditionally dominated by Western luxury brands - after South Korea actress Jeon Ji-hyun wore its sunglasses in the popular drama “My Love from the Star”.

Shareholders would discuss a stock market listing although they were “not in a hurry” as the priority was to manage the firm’s growth, Thakran said.

He said South Korea also offered attractive investment prospects in areas such as ginseng, travel retail, fashion, music, entertainment and technology.

($1=1,128.4200 won)

This story is refiled to add missing word in paragraph 5.

Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Stephen Coates

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