French luxury group taking over Crystal Jade

Crystal Jade chairman and chief executive Ip Yiu Tung said L Capital's backing would open doors for the firm and help it expand faster.
Crystal Jade chairman and chief executive Ip Yiu Tung said L Capital's backing would open doors for the firm and help it expand faster.ST PHOTO: MATTHIAS HO

LVMH's private equity arm buying 'over 90%' of home-grown chain

Home-grown chain Crystal Jade will soon be running its restaurants with a dash of French flair, thanks to a new ownership structure on the menu.

The company is being taken over by Paris-based luxury group LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton's private equity arm, which has been on a buying spree over the past few months.

L Capital Asia has signed a deal to buy "over 90 per cent" of Crystal Jade Group for an undisclosed sum, managing director Christina Teo told The Straits Times earlier this week.

"It is a household brand that resonates with many people. We think we can add value," she said.

Sources told The Straits Times that the investment was around US$100 million (S$126 million).

Ms Teo said L Capital invested in Crystal Jade out of a US$1 billion fund incepted this year, and would continue to look out for other deals in Singapore.

The fusion between the two could go beyond the financials. Crystal Jade will be able to tap LVMH's wine and spirits group to expand its offerings, Ms Teo said. That group includes premium labels such as Moet & Chandon champagne and Belvedere vodka.

LVMH's "good relationships with landlords" can also help Crystal Jade secure prime spots for its outlets, she added.

Crystal Jade, which opened its first restaurant at the former Cairnhill Hotel in 1991, now has 47 outlets in Singapore and 82 overseas, and pulled in close to $250 million in sales last year.

L Capital's backing would open doors for the firm and help it expand faster, Crystal Jade chairman and chief executive Ip Yiu Tung told The Straits Times.

Crystal Jade has carved out a foothold in markets like Indonesia and India, and has set its sights on places as far as the Middle East and Europe, he said. It plans to open 18 restaurants this year. A 20,000 sq ft San Francisco eatery that can seat more than 400 is expected to open in August, he said.

The Hong Konger, who became a Singapore permanent resident in 2008, said he was retaining only a "very small" portion of his stake in the company, mainly as he wants to hand over the reins.

"I am already 65 years old, and my daughter has no interest in taking over. It was time to pass it on to someone capable of bringing the business to another level," he said. "We are still a one-man company, but would like to change to being a corporate-managed company so that we can go further."

He plans to stay at the helm for one or two more years before possibly being an adviser or brand ambassador for the company. He and Ms Teo said a public listing for Crystal Jade could be on the cards.

L Capital bought a controlling stake in Singapore club Ku De Ta earlier this year. It also owns part of Australian food outfit Jones the Grocer and Singapore shoe brand Charles & Keith.

melissat@sph.com.sg