Malaysian bubble tea brand Tealive may have had a tumultuous beginning, but it is now poised for world domination.
The brand was initially created after a high-profile legal spat between parent company Loob Holding and Taiwanese franchise Chatime in 2017, which ended with Loob Holding rebranding the 161 Chatime outlets it previously operated into new Tealive stores.
Just two years later, the company is now eyeing a public listing to fund the drink chain’s aggressive expansion, with an IPO slated to take place between this year and next, Loob CEO Bryan Loo told Business Insider in an interview.
Loob Holding also runs several F&B franchises in Malaysia, including Gindaco, Croissant Taiyaki, Define:food, Define:burgers and Ko Ko Kai.
Meanwhile, Tealive has over 200 outlets in its home market – where it serves some 2 million customers monthly – as well as seven outlets in Vietnam, two in China, and one in Australia.
Seventy per cent of these outlets are owned by Loob Holding, while 30 per cent are operated by franchisees, a Tealive spokesman said.
Part of the brand’s expansion plan involves opening over 1,000 stores in at least 15 countries by the end of next year, half of which will be located in China. On top of that, it plans to open another 150 outlets in India by 2024 – goals that Loo, 33, described as “realistic” and “conservative”.
The CEO also said the company is on track and confident of meeting its targets, and is building relationships with potential business partners in Japan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Mongolia, and the UAE.
Neighbouring Singapore is also in its expansion plan, he added.
Loo admitted that the company does not have sufficient cashflow to sustain any aggressive expansion, as opening a store in Malaysia costs about RM400,000 (US$98,000), and overseas stores may cost even more.
Hence, it is evaluating “various options” in the capital market to fund the expansion, and will rely on support from bankers and business partners in the early phases.
The CEO said a public listing could be on the cards “as early as this year, or next year at the latest”.
“In terms of valuation, it would really depend on market conditions,” he added.
Loo explained that Tealive’s stores are all automated, making them highly scalable, and giving the company the flexibility to have stores as small as 6 square metres or as large as 400 square metres.
Tealive’s overseas outlets also tweak their menu offerings to suit local palates. Loo added that Chinese consumers, in particular, loved the brand’s series of durian-flavoured drinks.
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