QINGDAO, CHINA--Chinese appliance maker Haier has inked a big-budget communications deal with MSLGroup, as it steps up ambitious global expansion plans.

The company, often viewed as one of the few consumer-facing Chinese brands with credible global aspirations, has selected the agency to handle a multi-market PR brief estimated at upwards of $5m.

The appointment follows a competitive review that took place over the summer. Haier has previously worked with numerous agencies, including Hill + Knowlton Strategies. It is understood that the MSLGroup relationship will supersede existing local market appointments. 

MSLGroup is charged with overseeing the company's global communications strategy, focusing initially on China, the US and India, before rolling out to Japan and other European markets.

The development comes as Haier steps up its efforts to build a stronger international brand. Last week, the company made a $700m offer for New Zealand's Fisher & Paykel appliances, in which it already holds a 20 percent stake. Earlier this year, meanwhile, it launched a regional HQ in Japan.

Haier has been expanding abroad for more than a decade, earning it the world's largest market share among white goods.

Rather than competing on price, Haier is now aiming to target a more upmarket consumer base. According to the FT, management consultancy Booz & Co recently singled out the company as a leader in Chinese innovation.

The business is to be led by MSLGroup chief development officer Bob Bejan, supported by Genedigi, the Chinese PR firm that the agency acquired two years ago.

"I believe our knowledge and expertise in the China market; the strong presence of MSLGROUP and the standing of our agency Genedigi there, and our ability to deliver execution on a global scale matched what Haier are looking to do on both the local and international stage," said Bejan. "We're extremely excited to play a role in the company's expansion and growth."