An intriguing family office joint venture with top Chinese investment group

Verlinvest has already done a deal in China - others are likely to follow    Photo: Pixabay
Verlinvest has already done a deal in China – others are likely to follow    Photo: Pixabay

Verlinvest, the family investment group for the Spoelberch and de Mévius families, who are linked to the world’s biggest brewery group, InBev, recently signed a joint venture with the huge state-owned enterprise, China Resources. The joint venture plans to invest in health and consumer product companies worldwide.

The new group, China Resources Verlin Health Investment Company, received approval from the European Commission last September and has since made two investments. Last November, the joint venture took a stake in Red Sun Enterprise, a Shanghai-based nursing home operator. And last December, the new investment company bought into Oatly, a Scandinavian alternative food group and lifestyle brand.

China Resources, which for many years was synonymous with China’s push for a more capitalist-based investment focus funnelled through its imposing skyscraper in Hong Kong, is ranked as one of China’s biggest state enterprises. If the joint venture works, it could be very lucrative for Verlinvest, particularly if it can give the Brussels-based group better access to the fast-growing consumer and health sector in China. Many western groups have found it challenging to access profitable sectors in the country.

With €1.4 billion under management, Verlinvest – apart from the Spoelberch and de Mévius families, who are among the wealthiest in Europe –  has some interesting relationships with other managers, investors and investment groups. Ex-employee Daniel Grossmann is listed as an advisor at Verlinvest. Grossman co-founded Kharis Capital in 2015, a direct deal platform for family offices. Another advisor is John Learmonth, who founded Campden Publishing in the late 1980s, best known for its family office conferences and research.

Verlinvest has made some savvy investments over the years, including Glaceau Vitaminwater in the early 2000s, which it sold to Coca-Cola for $4.1 billion in 2007. In the same year, the group invested in a little-known maker of coconut water called Vita Coco. The brand has since gone on to become a leading name in the fast-growing coconut water sector, with a big share of the market. Recent reports suggest Vita Coco might be readying itself for a sale, which, if true, should net Verlinvest another sizeable investment return.