MUMBAI: Hamleys, the oldest toy retailer in the world, will move from Chinese control to Indian control after Reliance Industries said it had agreed to buy the icon for British main street.
Through its subsidiary Reliance Brands, the conglomerate said it has signed an agreement to buy the 250-year-old chain of C Banner International Holdings, which is listed in Hong Kong.
On Friday, C Banner shares were suspended from trading pending an announcement.
Reliance did not disclose the price of the agreement, but in 2018, C Banner canceled $ 49.8 million in brand value and brand value related to Hamleys, according to its annual report. The cut reduced the book value of the toy retailer by 36 percent to 626 million yuan ($ 91.85 million).
The Chinese group bought Hamleys in 2015 for $ 130.2 million from Groupe Ludendo of France, but since then their enthusiasm for British acquisitions has cooled. Last year, he put aside plans to buy 51 percent of House of Fraser, and the administration of the department store chain in the United Kingdom.
The acquisition by Reliance Industries, owned by the richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, marks the first incursion of the conglomerate into a retail brand abroad.
Reliance Industries runs the largest single-site crude oil refinery in the world and has been transforming into a consumer-oriented giant through retail and telecommunications companies.
"The global acquisition of Hamleys iconic brand and business places Reliance at the forefront of global retail," said Reliance Brands CEO Darshan Mehta.
Founded in 1760, Hamleys resonates with adults and children alike, with its Regent Street flagship store in central London, recognized throughout the world.
The toy seller has 167 stores in 18 countries, most of which are in India, Reliance said. The Indian company, which already owns the master franchise for the brand in India, currently operates 88 stores in 29 cities.
By establishing itself as India's leading mobile telecommunications player, Reliance Industries has been reaffirming plans for a retail attack to combine its traditional outlets with an online foray directed at Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. in India. .
As a supermarket operator, Reliance is already the largest brick and mortar retailer in the country in terms of revenue and number of stores.
The conglomerate's strategy to diversify beyond refining and petrochemicals has seen its rapid growth in retail and telecommunications operations bring quarterly profits to record levels at a time when their gross refining margins are falling. have been affected by the volatility of the oil price and the slowdown in world demand.
The group's retail business doubled revenues to 356 trillion rupees ($ 5.1 trillion) in the three months through December 31, while earnings before interest and taxes tripled to 15 trillion rupees.