Soo Kee to add shine to Thai market in $1.2m joint venture

Mr Peter Lim (left), Soo Kee Group chairman, and Mr Aniwat Srirungthum, Aurora Group chief executive, at the MOU signing yesterday. Soo Kee will hold a 40 per cent stake and Aurora a 60 per cent stake in the venture, which will sell gold and diamond
Mr Peter Lim (left), Soo Kee Group chairman, and Mr Aniwat Srirungthum, Aurora Group chief executive, at the MOU signing yesterday. Soo Kee will hold a 40 per cent stake and Aurora a 60 per cent stake in the venture, which will sell gold and diamond products under Soo Kee's Love & Co brand.ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM

Home-grown jeweller Soo Kee Group is setting up a joint venture in Thailand.

The collaboration is with leading Thai jeweller Aurora Design and will be set up with an initial paid-up capital of 30 million baht (S$1.2 million).

Soo Kee will hold a 40 per cent stake and Aurora a 60 per cent stake, according to a memorandum of understanding signed yesterday.

The joint venture firm will sell gold and diamond products under Soo Kee's Love & Co brand, which was set up in 2007 to focus on bespoke engagement rings and wedding bands.

Soo Kee will also license and supply intellectual property rights, products and support.

Group chief executive Daniel Lim said after the signing ceremony at Soo Kee's Changi Business Park headquarters that the plan is to take the bridal jewellery concept to Thailand, where there is a gap in the market.

"Thailand is a huge market for jewellery. It's also highly fragmented as far as diamond consumption is concerned," he noted.

"There are no decent business concepts yet to capture the diamond market, which is similar to what it was like in Singapore 20 to 30 years ago when people traditionally bought gold and the diamond market was underdeveloped."

He noted that last year, the Thai jewellery market, mostly consisting of diamond and gold, was worth more than 76 billion baht.

Soo Kee started talks with Aurora, which has more than 170 stores across Thailand, last year as part of regional expansion efforts.

Mr Lim said the initial plan is to have 20 retail points in Thailand in the first five years. Soo Kee expects to break even after the first year.

Mr Lim added: "We will target key cities and strategic locations as part of the first phase.

"We're looking at concept stores and depending on the location, there are also opportunities in high-end department stores, where we can possibly open boutiques within them to exploit their traffic flow and footfall."

Aurora chief executive Aniwat Srirungthum said the firms are looking at cities such as Bangkok and tourist hot spots such as Phuket and Pattaya.

Mr Aniwat said: "We are confident of Love & Co's market potential, and this will widen our product offering and strengthen our capability to grow our customer base."

Soo Kee also said yesterday that it will be the first Asian partner of The International Institute of Diamond Grading & Research, part of diamond giant De Beers.

Soo Kee, whose other brands are Soo Kee Jewellery, SK Jewellery and SK Bullion, is keen on growing in the region.

Mr Lim said: "Thailand is important to us, but we will not stop here. Thailand is also recognised as the most important bullion market in the region.

"Be it in the form of gold jewellery or bullion, we see other possible opportunities in Thailand. We are definitely interested in the regional markets and are constantly looking out for new opportunities."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 10, 2017, with the headline 'Soo Kee to add shine to Thai market in $1.2m joint venture'. Print Edition | Subscribe