Muji copycat Miniso to IPO in New York

Business & Technology

Miniso, a chain of stores that sell household goods and apparel, has filed for an IPO in New York.

A Miniso store in Shanghai. Reuters/Oriental Images.

Miniso, a Chinese household goods and clothing retailer that copied the business model of Muji and the logo of Uniqlo, “is planning to raise up to $562.4 million in its initial public offering (IPO) on the New York Stock Exchange,” reports Caixin. This would give the company a valuation of around $5.7 billion.

  • The company will offer 30.4 million American depositary shares (ADS) priced between $16.50 and $18.50 each.  
  • According to its IPO prospectus, the company has more than 4,200 stores in more than 80 countries and regions. More than half of the stores are in China.
  • In 2018, Miniso took a 1 billion yuan ($150 million) round of investment from Tencent and Hillhouse Capital. “Entities affiliated with Tencent would own 4.8% of Miniso’s stock after the offering,” Reuters notes.

Founded in 2013 in Guangzhou by Yè Guófù 叶国富, the company is not shy about its imitation of Japanese brands:

  • Miniso defines itself as “Japanese-inspired.” Most of its designers are Japanese and Scandinavian.
  • The company’s Japanese “inspiration” has generated controversy, with some saying that its products are “made in China to look Japanese,” and others criticizing its “ungrammatical” use of Japanese on product labels, which management admitted was generated by Baidu’s free translation app.
  • Brands that have “inspired” Miniso might sue, and Miniso knows it. From the prospectus: “We may need to defend ourselves against patent, trademark or other proprietary rights infringement or unfair competition claims… We may also suffer from negative publicities relating to intellectual property infringement claims.”

As of today, 16 Chinese companies have listed on American stock exchanges in 2020. There are 217 Chinese companies listed on U.S. exchanges, with a total market capitalization of $2.2 trillion.

  • Despite the tensions between the U.S. and China, Chinese companies continue to find American markets attractive. Firms based in China have raised $9.1 billion through IPOs in the U.S. this year, according to Bloomberg data.
  • The threat of financial war and the added scrutiny brought to Chinese companies by the Luckin Coffee fraud scandal may paradoxically be encouraging Chinese companies to raise money in the U.S. as soon as they can, before the process gets more difficult.