The Cocoa Trees sets sights on China after Temasek fund investment

A homegrown chain of chocolate boutiques has set its sights on having an outlet in nearly every single airport in China, after receiving an investment from a unit of Temasek Holdings.

The Cocoa Trees has over 30 outlets in Chinese airports but that number could double or triple after its partnership with Heliconia Capital Management, said Mr Paul Loo, the co-founder and group chief executive of Cocoa Trees' parent company FNA Group International.

A listing within five years could also be on the cards if the time was right, he told The Straits Times in an interview at Raffles City on Monday.

FNA was set up in 1991 with just five staff but has grown into Asia's biggest distributor and retailer of chocolate and confectionery products.

It employs 650 people worldwide and its turnover last year was $210 million. Out of its 70 outlets in the Asia Pacific region, 20 are in Singapore.

Both Mr Loo and Heliconia declined to disclose the investment sum or the size of Heliconia's stake in FNA.

Heliconia chief executive Derek Lau said in a statement on Monday that FNA was "uniquely positioned to take advantage of Asia's growing travel retail sector". This includes airports, duty free zones, land border crossings, railway stations, cruise liners and downtown resorts, he said.

"Travel retail is enjoying high double digit growth as a confluence of factors such as rising disposable income, the opening up of air travel to a wider group of consumers, and more airports being built."