Hello Kitty firm strikes China deal after viral hit


The Japanese company behind the Hello Kitty brand has struck a licensing deal in China after one of its lesser-known characters went viral in the country.

Sanrio says a unit of e-commerce giant Alibaba will have exclusive rights in China to make and sell merchandise of its 26 characters.

The deal comes after Sanrio's imp-like rabbit Kuromi featured in a Chinese social media video that went viral.

Shares in Sanrio closed almost 14% higher in Tokyo trade on Thursday.

The company said in a statement that the five-year agreement with Alifish, Alibaba's licensing and entertainment business, will "further enhance the Sanrio brand and character value in the Chinese mainland market".

The deal covers 26 characters that Sanrio has designed including Hello Kitty, her best friend My Melody and the devilish Kuromi.

Earlier this year, Kuromi surged in popularity in China after an influencer danced in outfits inspired by Sanrio characters.

The video on the Douyin, the version of TikTok available in China, was posted by Helenoftroy, who has more than 14 million followers.

Kuromi's birthday is on Halloween and she is described as a "tomboy" who is "actually very girly". According to Sanrio's official website, "She enjoys writing in her diary and reading romance novels."