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Chinese owner reportedly ready to sell iconic UK toy store

By Earle Gale in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-05-10 19:10
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Hamleys dates back to 1760 and is widely considered to be the world's oldest toy seller. [Photo/IC]

The richest man in India, Mukesh Ambani, is reportedly in the process of buying the famed United Kingdom toy store Hamleys from its Chinese owner for an undisclosed sum.

The BBC said on Friday that Ambani's company, Reliance Brands Limited, had signed an agreement with China's C.Banner International that provisionally agrees the transfer.

C.Banner International, which specializes in footware, has owned Hamleys since 2015.

Hamleys dates back to 1760 and is widely considered to be the world's oldest toy seller. The franchise now has 167 stores in 18 countries and territories. Eighty-eight of those stores are in India and many are operated under franchise by Reliance Brands Limited.

Darshan Mehta, CEO of Reliance Brands Limited, said in a statement: "The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand ... is a long-cherished dream come true."

Hamleys reported a loss last year, of 9.2 million pounds ($12 million), which the company blamed on the UK's pending exit from the European Union and the lingering threat of terrorism.

The company's seven-floor flagship store in London's Regent Street opened in 1881 and is now a major tourist attraction.

During the past 16 years, Hamleys has changed hands several times, being owned by companies based in Iceland and France in addition to China.

The Guardian newspaper claims the Hamleys deal is worth almost 70 million pounds, although that figure has not been confirmed by either company.

Forbes magazine says Ambani is worth almost $51 billion.

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