French billionaire and luxury brand magnate Bernard Arnault is in China this week, social media posts show, the latest visit by a foreign executive keen to reconnect to the world's second-largest economy.
The world's second-richest man after Elon Musk and chairman of LVMH group, Arnault was seen in Beijing visiting the upscale SKP mall and the Sanlitun Taikoo Li shopping centre Tuesday, posts widely circulated on Weibo show.
He was then spotted in the southwestern city of Chengdu on Wednesday, where he toured the International Finance Center and other upscale stores.
Chinese state media also reported the visit was taking place, citing the social media videos.
China is critical to the luxury market and before the pandemic it made up a third of all global luxury goods spending.
The pandemic hit the industry hard, with China's share of the market sinking to 17 per cent in 2022, according to analysts at UBS, who say 2023 will be the “year of the Chinese consumer”.
“The Chinese clientele is much more important than it was in 2019,” says LVMH's financial director Jean-Jacques Guiony.
Arnault's LVMH group – which includes dozens of brands including Louis Vuitton, Givenchy and Kenzo – has continued to post strong revenue and profit growth despite global economic headwinds.
Arnault has said he is “optimistic about the Chinese market”.
This week's visit to China is far from his first.
In a 2007 interview with Time magazine, the French tycoon said he had travelled to China “maybe twenty times” and praised the country's economic potential.
He is one of a number of foreign businessmen to visit the country since the end of its zero-Covid regime, which barred all but essential travel to China for almost three years.
This month, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates visited Beijing, where he met with President Xi Jinping and hailed the country's successes in fighting Covid, according to state media.
In May, Tesla chief executive Elon Musk met with top officials in the Chinese capital, before heading to Shanghai to visit his company's Gigafactory on the outskirts of the city.