U.K. gym chain Fitness First is further muscling into Asia with plans to open 50 new clubs over the next five years and invest around $140 million in the region, the firm announced Monday.
Fitness First Asia CEO Simon Flint told CNBC's "Squawk Box" that the firm planned to expand in Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines and Thailand, with particular focus on Singapore and Thailand, the chain's strongest Asian markets. The chain currently operates 88 clubs across the six countries it is active in.
"It's a very exciting time in the region, we've had a decade of expansion and steady growth over that time," said Flint.
"But now we're seeing...the markets tending to mature somewhat, and people [are] getting more conscious of their exercise needs," he added.
The international gymnasium chain has struggled in recent years as niche exercise studios offering the likes of pilates and hot yoga, together with 24-hour budget gym chains became increasingly popular, eating into the chain's market share.
The firm flirted with a debt default in 2011 but was rescued by U.S. hedge funds Oaktree Capital and Marathon with a £550 million pound ($923 million) debt-for-equity swap the next year, leaving private equity owners BC partners with a minority stake. BC Partners bought Fitness First for £835 million ($1.4 billion) in 2005, but failed to float the business in 2011.
Flint said the firm is now in a strong position to expand, with $40 million to invest in the existing estate in Asia, and $100 million to grow the market over a five year plan.