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Yao Ming navigates deal with Beijing GPS maker

By Wang Ying (China Daily)
Updated: 2010-03-25 10:23
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Yao Ming navigates deal with Beijing GPS maker

A model holds a UniStrong GPS unit. UniStrong hopes to raise 1.11 billion yuan with an IPO on the SME board. [China Daily]

SHANGHAI: As a thirty-year-old man, Yao Ming has gained a number of social roles beyond being a basketball player. He will become a father this autumn when his first child is born. He is an active supporter of charities for children and victims of poverty and natural disasters. And now he is a diversified businessman.

During the past eight years with the NBA's Houston Rockets, Yao succeeded in translating his popularity among fans and exciting on-court performance into some hefty paychecks.

In Forbes' 2009 list of Chinese celebrities, Yao ranked No 1 with an annual income of 357 million yuan.

Managing that astronomical amount has been the task assigned to his financial team.

His previous investments include co-founding, a Chinese music website, opening several Yao Restaurants in Houston and Shanghai, and snapping up the Shanghai basketball team he used to play for.

These business decisions are all closely associated with his hobbies: pop music, food and basketball.

His latest investment is no exception. As a fan of science and astronomy, Yao signed a five-year endorsement contract with Beijing UniStrong Science & Technology Co Ltd, a high-tech company specializing in Global Positioning System (GPS) technologies.

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According to the deal, Yao purchased 675,000 shares of the company for 375,000 yuan.

Currently, UniStrong is hoping to raise 1.11 billion yuan through offering 30 million shares, with an IPO price of 37 yuan per share on the Small and Medium Enterprise board. As the company's fourth largest shareholder, Yao holds 675,000 shares, accounting for 0.75 percent of the total.

"The high offering price reflected high market recognition and confidence towards UniStrong," said Jiang Zhou, an industry analyst with Xiangcai Securities.

"As a specialist in GPS product research and development, UniStrong is a leading product provider on positioning, navigation and timing adjustment. Currently, our domestic specialized market share has reached 40 percent," said Sun Ying, UniStrong's marketing manager.

According to Zhang Guangrong, an analyst from Rising Securities, the GPS market is globally valued at more than $100 billion, and navigation systems for cars and mobile phones are a fast growing market.

"In 2008, China's satellite navigation sector reported revenue of 28.48 billion yuan, and about 90 percent came from consumers. In other words, this is a sector with great potential," Zhang said. And possibly not a shabby investment for a basketball player either.