Tipperary Crystal shines in China

Mon, Jan 30, 2012, 00:00

TIPPERARY CRYSTAL managing director Declan Fearon has said he is confident it is on the way to becoming the premier crystal brand in China.

The business wants to establish a crystal manufacturing operation in the CHQ building in the IFSC, in Dublin, and has 160 former Waterford Glass workers waiting to go to work in China if a crystal factory is opened there.

“They will work six weeks on, two weeks off,” he said.

Mr Fearon told a Sino-Irish Business and Entrepreneurship Seminar in the offices of Dublin City Council the company decided to take a look at doing business in China after the closure of Waterford Crystal, which led to its huge inventory being sold off cheaply.

He discovered there was very little crystal in China. “The largest consumers of fine wines in the world were drinking out of crude glasses.”

He engaged Morgan Stanley to help find local partners for Tipperary Crystal, with the idea of opening a crystal factory in China.

He eventually made contact with one of the richest women in China, Linda Zhou, who has a retail jewellery chain, Neoglory, which has about 1,000 outlets.

Like other speakers at the seminar, he said having patience and forming personal relationships is key to doing business in China.

He and Ms Zhou spent a year and a half getting to know each other, he said, and she visited Ireland and the crystal glass plant in Slovenia where Tipperary Crystal is made.

She eventually decided to back crystal glass and is considering buying the Slovenia factory, which is up for sale, as well as building what would be the first real crystal glass factory in China.

A shop selling Tipperary Crystal was opened in China two weeks ago and on the first day it sold unique items priced up to €5,000 each. The company has been producing new products that reflect Chinese design and heritage.

The company intends to tender for the CHQ building and to locate a Tipperary Crystal manufacturing plant there as part of a plan to convert the under-used retail building into a cultural centre.

Rory Williams of property company Treasury Holdings told the seminar that the company had first gone to China in 2003 but not acquired its first asset until 2006.

Treasury owns about 30 per cent of Treasury China Trust, which is quoted on the stock exchange in Singapore and has assets worth about €1.5 billion. Treasury also manages property.

He predicted that Treasury’s Chinese business will continue to prosper irrespective of what happened with the National Asset Management Agency, which is taking enforcement action against the company over unpaid loans.

Treasury has opened a not-for-profit Irish Centre in Shanghai which is available to help Irish people and firms wanting to look at the possibility of doing business in China, Mr Williams said.