China’s Anta is about to become more valuable than Adidas

China’s Anta is hot on Adidas’s heels.
China’s Anta is hot on Adidas’s heels.
Image: Reuters/Florence Lo
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

As of this writing, Adidas’s market capitalization is approximately $74 billion. Not far behind is Anta, China’s biggest sports company, which is traded on the Hong Kong stock exchange and currently has a market value of about $64 billion, according to data from FactSet, a financial data platform.

In the past year, however, Adidas’s value has risen about 39%, while Anta’s has rocketed up 157%. At its current rate of growth, Anta will soon overtake Adidas as the second most valuable sports company in the world, trailing only Nike and its $256 billion market capitalization.

By sales Adidas is still the much larger player. In 2020, it recorded $23.5 billion in sales (pdf), to Anta’s $5.5 billion.

The rise in Anta’s value reflects the company’s increasing competitiveness against the world’s dominant sports giants, particularly in China, where investors see reason to be optimistic about Anta’s prospects as Chinese shoppers show a growing desire for Chinese brands.

Chinese shoppers increasingly want Chinese brands

While Anta has global ambitions (paywall) and sponsors a number of professional basketball players in the US, its real strength is in China, where it’s the third largest sports brand in market share behind Nike and Adidas. Historically, Chinese companies have taken a backseat in the eyes of Chinese shoppers to foreign ones. But in recent years, Anta has benefitted from a burgeoning preference among Chinese shoppers for homegrown names, allowing it to capitalize on the increasingly valuable Chinese sportswear market.

In 2020, that market was worth about $46 billion, making up 16% of global sales, according to a recent note to clients from the research arm of HSBC. By 2025, it will reach $93 billion and account for 21% of the global total, the bank estimates.

Anta’s shares have also risen sharply in recent months after the backlash against foreign companies in China over their comments on sourcing from Xinjiang. Many international firms have sought to distance themselves from ties to the region, where Western authorities accuse the Chinese government of using Uyghurs and other Muslim groups as forced labor in cotton and other industries in Xinjiang. China vehemently denies the charges, and many Chinese shoppers show their support by boycotting the foreign companies involved, including Nike and Adidas, and backing domestic companies, a number of which have proudly proclaimed their use of Xinjiang cotton.

Anta has been one beneficiary. In April, for example, the company’s sales on Tmall, a large e-commerce platform run by Alibaba, were up 59% compared to the same time last year, according to a May report by Morningstar, a research firm. Sales of Adidas products were down 78% in the period, it estimated, and Nike sales dropped 59%.

While many analysts expect the situation to be temporary, it has enabled companies such as Anta and Li-Ning, another Chinese sports brand, to outperform Nike and Adidas in the market, spurring a rise in Anta’s value.

Anta continues to grow, but whether it can surpass Adidas in value and stay there is another matter. Adidas is a global force, and if its shares heat up or Anta’s cool off, it could widen its lead again. At the moment, however, Anta is right on its heels.