ITOCHU Announces Development of Animation Character Licensing Business in Asia

Establishment of Rights & Brands Asia Ltd. and Exclusive Development of Moomin in the China Market

September 13, 2021

ITOCHU Corporation (headquartered in Minato-ku, Tokyo; Keita Ishii, President & COO; hereinafter "ITOCHU") announced today that it has established a joint venture in Hong Kong with PPW Sports & Entertainment (HK) Limited (headquartered in Hong Kong; Ivan Chan, CEO; hereinafter, "PPW"), R&B Licensing AB (headquartered in Sweden; Patrick Ullman, CEO; hereinafter "RBS"), and Moomin Characters Oy Ltd. (headquartered in Finland; Roleff Kråkström, CEO; hereinafter "MC") and launched the animation character licensing business in Asian market. The corporate name of the joint venture is Rights & Brands Asia Ltd. (hereinafter "RBA") and, as its first step, it will develop business for its license of the world-renowned character, Moomin, in the China Market on an exclusive basis.*1

The animation and character merchandising and licensing business has been growing larger every year in Asia, particularly in China. The generation of people born after 1995 (Generation Z), is approximately 20% of the Chinese population, are showing a growing eagerness to purchase character merchandise, influenced by animation and other cultural trends. This has caused the market size to exceed approximately 1.3 trillion yen in 2019, a 14% year-on-year increase, and the market is expected to continue to grow. *2 However, there are a number of new animation characters created in Japan every year. To foster and expand content in the medium to long term, there has been growing need for smooth overseas development.

Recently, ITOCHU has established joint venture RBA to conduct the licensing business in Asia together with PPW, who has advantages in the licensing business in China, RBS, who handles the globally popular Moomin character and other North European content and MC.
As its first step, RBA will develop business for the license of the world famous character, Moomin, in the China Market on a exclusive basis. Specifically, the new joint venture, RBA, will acquire the master license rights in the Chinese cultural sphere from RBS and develop a diversified licensing businesses encompassing real entertainment such as the merchandizing business, animation broadcasting and streaming, theme parks and cafes, as well as digital content such as games and apps for smartphones.

PPW is a licensing agent handling diverse content, including content for animation and sports teams, and has a customer network consisting of over 500 sublicensees in China. PPW will support RBA in its various business development activities in China including merchandised and licensed development of the content it handles in the form of apparel and miscellaneous daily goods, sales of content to TV stations and streaming business operators and theme parks.
With over 70 years of experience in the business of licensing North European brands, RBS is a master agent who manages the Moomin license around the world and represents other popular brands in North Europe. MC is a company established by Tove Jansson, the author of Moomin, and her brother, Lars Jansson, that manages the copyrights of Moomin. First, RBA will develop business for Moomin and other North European content handled by RBS and MC in Asia.
Prior to this, ITOCHU has engaged in the development of a wide array of media content businesses in Japan and overseas. Moving forward, utilizing domestic and international networks and RBA as a starting point, ITOCHU will support Japanese animation characters as they make their ways into Asia, as well as other Asian countries' animation characters in the development of their content in other countries, while creating a new licensing business market.

Outline of each company

Rights & Brands Asia Ltd.

Location Hong Kong
Representative Bianca Lee
Established September 1, 2021
Shareholders ITOCHU 38.5%, PPW 38.5%, RBS Holding (SPC by RBS and MC) 23%
Business Activities Licensing business in Asia

PPW Sports & Entertainment (HK) Limited

Location Hong Kong
Representative Ivan Chan
Established 2005
Business Activities Licensing business in Chinese cultural sphere

R&B Licensing AB

Location Sweden
Representative Patrick Ullman
Established 2016
Business Activities Licensing business in North Europe

Moomin Characters Oy Ltd.

Location Finland
Representative Roleff Kråkström
Established 1958
Business Activities Management of Moomin copyrights
  • *1About Moomin
    Created by Finnish writer and painter, Tove Jansson (1914-2001). Currently MC manages its copyright and RBS is its master agent for licensing around the world. Moomin picture and comic books are translated into 55 languages and published around the world. There are now over 800 Moomin sublicensees worldwide with a global market size in 2020 of 0.9 billion yen or more, growing to approximately 8.5 times its previous size over the past 15 years. In 2019, the new animation series, Moominvalley, was broadcast/streamed in more than 50 countries around the world, creating more Moomin fans.
  • *2Source: Market research on IP copyright trading industry 2019 by the Tou Bao Research Institute