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Asia's richest man buys iconic British toy store chain Hamleys

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Reliance Brands Ltd agreed to purchase the 259-year-old British toy store chain Hamleys from C.Banner International Holdings Ltd for an undisclosed amount, the unit of Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd said in a statement late on Thursday.

[MUMBAI] Mukesh Ambani, Asia's richest man, sealed another deal to expand his retail footprint and add heft in a battle with Amazon.com Inc and Walmart Inc in India.

Reliance Brands Ltd agreed to purchase the 259-year-old British toy store chain Hamleys from C.banner International Holdings Ltd for an undisclosed amount, the unit of Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd said in a statement late on Thursday. The transaction would "catapult Reliance Brands to be a dominant player in the global toy retail industry", it said.

The acquisition is the latest in a string of purchases in Ambani's push into the consumer business, which he says will contribute nearly as much to the conglomerate's total earnings as its core energy business by the end of 2028. Adding Hamleys would give Reliance 167 stores across 18 countries. The company is already a master franchisee of the toy store in India, where it operates 88 outlets.

For Hong Kong-listed C.banner, the sale would mark a retreat from the UK after the Chinese company last year dropped plans to purchase a majority stake in House of Fraser, a struggling department store chain that was rescued by Sports Direct International plc. In 2015, C.banner paid £100 million (S$177.4 million) for Hamleys, which was founded in 1760 and opened its London flagship store in 1881.

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Ambani is stitching together a network of partners through stake purchases or outright acquisitions in the race with Amazon and Walmart for a slice of India's growing online shopping market, which Morgan Stanley estimates will be valued at US$200 billion by 2028.

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