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Chinese firm buys back Jissbon condom brand

Bonds-w

Made of wax, inspiring rubber

“The name’s Bond, James Bond.” It’s an immortal phrase, and has been used regularly in the fictional British spy’s 25 blockbuster movies over the past 55 years.

Aside from his knack for saving the world, Agent 007 is probably most famous for the notches on his bedpost – with virtually all of his cinematic outings seeing him bed beautiful women (played by the likes of Ursula Andress, Britt Ekland and Sophie Marceau, to name but three of the 77 ‘Bond Girls’ to date). And none of them became pregnant. So it probably shouldn’t be too great a surprise that in the late Nineties a Chinese company thought it would be a good idea to name a condom brand after him.

In 1998 Humanwell created Jissbon, which means James Bond in Chinese, and soon became a major player in China’s condom market. But in 2006 – when the Wuhan-based company got into financial difficulties – Jissbon was sold to Australia’s Ansell.

Jissbon was back in the news last week when Humanwell said it was buying the condom maker back. The Chinese firm is paying $600 million for Jissbon as well as Ansell’s other condom brands, with a goal of taking on industry leader Durex both in China and beyond.

It will have been a particularly sweet moment for Wang Xuehang, the Humanwell boss. Jissbon was his brainchild. Back in 1998 Wang was charged with growing the new condom division, using Shenzhen as the starting point. Wang quickly challenged the more conservative sexual mores of those times by putting images of Jissbon condoms on 80 buses, with the slogan “Carefree love”. This caused a sensation nationwide, while Wang’s next move was more astute still: he persuaded supermarkets to sell Jissbon, leading sales to grow 35% annually.

Thanks to his successes he was made chairman of Humanwell at the age of 31 – the youngest to hold this title in the A-share market. But he’d also inherited the consequences of some poor decisions by his predecessors and so to clear up the firm’s financial issues he reluctantly sold Jissbon to Ansell for Rmb137 million ($137 million) – largely because its profitability made it the easiest asset to sell.

Since then Wang has turned Humanwell around, developing it into a medicines-to-property conglomerate with annual sales of over Rmb10 billion.

Wang’s latest deal will see Humanwell – and financial partner Citic Capital – purchase Ansell’s entire ‘global sexual health business’, which also includes lubricants, sex toys and other overseas condom brands such as Blowtex in the US.

Huxiu.com explains that Humanwell is more upbeat on the prospects for condom sales than Ansell (which made around $36.5 million in profit last year from such contraceptives). Meanwhile Jissbon is well positioned: it already has a 25% market share in China (close to that of Durex) and Humanwell expects Chinese condom sales to reach $5 billion by 2024.

Perhaps the next step will be to launch a James Bond condom in the UK, to take Durex on in its home market…


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