(Yicai Global) Sept. 14 -- Chinese investment group Legend Holdings Corporation [HKG:3396] has been on a buying spree in the agriculture industry. It has branched out into fruit, beverage, agricultural internet, grains and seafood businesses. In the latest twist, its subsidiary Joyvio Agriculture Development Co. [SHE:300268], formerly known as Wanfu Biotechnology (Hunan) Agricultural Development Co., now has its eye on the ready-to-cook market, one of the key businesses that China picked for its consumption upgrade drive.
Joyvio announced a strategic investment in Nine Masters (Shanghai) Catering Services Co. yesterday. The company will hold a 68 percent stake in the target firm after the deal, and the management will own the remaining 32 percent. Wang Zunxiang, Joyvio's investment director, will act as the executive director at Nine Masters to oversee cross-regional business expansion, mergers and acquisitions (M & A) and resource integration activities.
"We now have a 'field to table' full industry chain business structure in place, but given the enormous size of the food and agricultural markets, Joyvio will carry out a number of well-targeted global deals in certain verticals. We've previously invested in the seafood business, for example," said Chen Shaopeng, senior president of Legend Holdings and chairman of Joyvio Group, in an interview with Yicai Global.
"What consumers can find in farmers markets or supermarkets is unprocessed food, but young people nowadays don't even know how to cook fish," so the products cannot meet consumers' needs, he explained.
However, business-oriented nature of Nine Masters means that it has been playing the role of a service provider for the most part. Its business model mainly involves indirectly providing consumers with small-packaged ready-to-cook food products through cooperation with online and grocery retail platforms.
Nine Masters was founded in 2010 as a provider of comprehensive ready-to-cook food services, public information shows. It has formed strategic partnerships with major e-commerce retailers such as IKEA Food, Hema Xiansheng, Yiguo Shengxian and JD.com.
The firm will stick to the business-to-business (b2b) strategy and does not plan to enter the business-to-customer (b2c) market for the time being, Nine Masters' chief executive, Yao Weida, said.
Cold-chain delivery is the biggest obstacle confronting Yao now. "Cold-chain delivery, especially the 'last kilometer problem', represents a huge challenge," he opined. "At the moment, Nine Masters will continue to focus our efforts on improving product quality. Our goal is to produce more high-quality products while formulating industry standards."
The firm has developed a central database containing information about some 1,600 standard Chinese and Western dishes, as well as a fully-integrated ready-to-cook food solution for families, its chairman Chen Gongdong noted, adding that such a business model is readily scalable.
Nine Masters currently prioritizes Shanghai as the core market, with business operations in other parts of East China. In future, Yao disclosed, it will penetrate regional markets in Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou by acquiring existing businesses, and expand its 'central ki-tech' operations on a nationwide scale, Yao disclosed.
Legend Holdings acquired Wanfu Biotechnology [SHE:300268], now known as Joyvio Agriculture Development, a public company listed on the Growth Enterprise Market, in February, and injected it into Joyvio Group as a strategic industry development platform.