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C.Banner International sells Hamleys to India’s Reliance

Struggling Hong Kong-listed retail operator C.Banner International has sold the Hamleys toy store business to India’s Reliance Retail.

As reported by Inside Retail Asia last month, Reliance – the Indian licence holder for Hamleys – will mark the fourth owner for the historic brand in just 15 years.

Reliance has confirmed a definitive agreement was signed between the two companies yesterday but did not disclose the price it will pay. Sources in India have said the deal was worth US$88.4 million, well above earlier estimates ranging between $36 million and $50 million, but still representing a substantial loss for C.Banner which paid $130 million for the business in 2015.

Hamleys reportedly lost $15.6 million in 2017 on sales down 2.5 per cent to $86.5 million.

Hamleys marks the first international brand Reliance has bought.

“The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business places Reliance into the frontline of global retail,” said Darshan Mehta, Reliance Brands CEO.

“Over the last few years we have built a very significant and profitable business in toy retailing under the Hamleys brand in India. The 250-year old English toy retailer pioneered the concept of experiential retailing, decades before the concept of creating unique experiences in brick-and-mortar retailing become the new global norm.”

Buying the company, he said, was “personally, a long-cherished dream come true”.

India is by far Hamleys’ largest market, accounting for 88 of its 167 stores in 18 countries.

Reliance Retail, a subsidiary of the giant Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, is in acquisition mode as it tries to expand its business by 30 per cent annually for a decade, an ambition on a scale probably only realisable in India right now. As at the end of last year it operated 9907 stores across 6400 Indian cities with a combined retail area of more than 21 million sqft. Its retail licenses and partnerships include Marks & Spencer, Diesel, Steve Madden and Kenneth Cole.

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