Toy story: Asia’s richest man buys Britain’s Hamleys for US$ 88 million

Hong Kong, China | AFP | Friday 5/10/2019 – Asia’s richest man Mukesh Ambani has snapped up the storied British toy store Hamleys from its Chinese owners for US$ 88 million, the latest in a dizzying splurge of retail acquisitions.

Ambani’s Reliance Brands announced late Thursday that it had bought the 259-year-old toy retailer from the Hong Kong listed Chinese fashion conglomerate C.Banner International Holdings.

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

Ambani, worth some 50 billion dollars according to Forbes, initially made his fortune in oil refining and petrochemicals, but his Reliance empire has since branched into everything from telecoms to cable networks and tech firms.

In recent years, he has massively expanded his retail portfolio, snapping up a string of well-known brands such as Burberry, Canali, Paul Smith, Armani, Just Cavalli and Jimmy Choo.

Ambani has said he hopes the consumer business wing of his empire will contribute as much to his conglomerate’s earnings as the core energy business by the end of 2028.

He is currently engaged in fierce competition with Amazon and Walmart in an ongoing race to dominate India’s retail market.

The purchase of the much loved Hamleys will help bolster that fight.

Best known for its enormous flagship store in London – itself a tourist attraction that receives five million visitors a year – Hamleys has been expanding internationally since the mid-2000s.

Reliance already had a franchise agreement for India, running 88 stores in 29 cities, but the purchase now brings him a total of 167 stores in 18 countries.

But while the brand is well-known, Hamleys has struggled. The GBP 68 million (US$ 88 million) price tag is almost half what C.Banner paid the previous owner, France’s Groupe Ludendo, in 2015.