Hong Kong finance elite's gym of choice is said to seek sale

Founded in 2002, the group operates Pure Yoga and Pure Fitness centres in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and New York. PHOTO: PURE FITNESS

HONG KONG (Bloomberg) - Owners of Pure Group, the billionaire-backed gym chain catering to Hong Kong's financial elite, are seeking a sale that could value the company at as much as US$500 million (S$675 million), people with knowledge of the matter said.

Pure Group investors, including buyout firm Leonard Green & Partners and businessman Bruce Rockowitz, are working with an investment bank to find a buyer for a controlling stake in the Hong Kong-based company, according to the people. It has drawn interest from Chinese private equity firms, the people said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

Many of Pure Group's fitness centres occupy prime Hong Kong real estate like IFC Mall, a stone's throw away from the local headquarters of UBS Group and the stock exchange.

Earlier this year, it opened a 10,000-square-foot yoga facility in the upscale Pacific Place mall, just downstairs from the offices of Carlyle Group, in a spot where a Burberry Group outlet used to stand.

Any deal will add to the US$123.8 billion of consumer acquisitions in Asia this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Founded in 2002, the group operates Pure Yoga and Pure Fitness centres in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei and New York.

"A buyer would care about the China expansion. The market is at a relatively early development stage - people are trying to work out more and get a healthy lifestyle," Jacqueline Ko, an analyst at Kim Eng Securities (HK), said by phone Tuesday.

"They can charge a premium for a famous Hong Kong brand."

Pure Group also operates the rooftop RED Bar + Restaurant, which offers views of Hong Kong's Victoria Harbor, and sells its own brands of activewear and organic food.

The company has more than 70,000 clients and employs 1,400 staff, Pure Group's website shows.

Hong Kong's Pure Group isn't related to the UK-based chain PureGym Group.

Rockowitz, the chief executive officer of Global Brands Group Holding and husband to Chinese pop singer Coco Lee, owns around half of Pure Group, according to the people. He is expected to divest a significant portion of his holding in any sale, the people said.

Fung Group, the private holding company of Hong Kong billionaire brothers Victor and William Fung, is also seeking to offload its stake of about 10 per cent, said the people.

Pure Group management may keep a minority interest in the company, according to two of the people.

No final decisions have been made, and there's no certainty the deliberations will lead to a transaction, the people said.

Representatives for Pure Group and Fung Group said they couldn't immediately comment. A representative for Leonard Green didn't respond to emailed queries, while Rockowitz didn't respond to requests for comment.

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