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Mukesh Ambani’s British game: RIL acquires iconic toy chain Hamleys in first international retail foray

FE Online
Hamleys, Reliance

Mukesh Ambani has finally made his Reliance Industries Ltd an international retailing major, with the acquisition of iconic British toy store brand Hamleys. RIL on Thursday said that its wholly-owned unit Reliance Brands Ltd has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the entire shareholding in Hamleys from Hong Kong-listed firm C Banner International. Hamleys claims to be the oldest and largest toy shop in the world, being founded back in the year 1760. India already has 88 Hamleys stores in 29 cities, which, incidentally, are run by RIL s retail arm under a master franchise arrangement.

Hamleys has 167 stores in 18 countries across the globe. With the acquisition of Hamleys, Reliance Brands will become a dominant player in the global toy retail industry, RIL said in a statement. The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business places Reliance into the frontline of global retail, Darshan Mehta, President and CEO, Reliance Brands, said in the statement.

Hamleys was bought over by China s C Banner International in the year 2015 in a 100-million pound deal. Earlier last year, in October, media reports had said that C Banner International was looking to sell Hamleys while launching a strategic review of the loss-making business.

Meanwhile, Mukesh Ambani s RIL, which is fast morphing into a frontrunner consumer facing company from its traditional industrial businesses, has made deep inroads into the retail space with expansion of its various retail store formats, selling electronics, apparel, footwear, daily household items, and more.

The acquisition of Hamleys is in sync with RIL retail expansion. The statement did not reveal the value of the deal. Earlier last month, the Business Line had reported that RIL was looking to buy out Hamleys for about Rs 250-350 crore.

Reliance Jio is already inching towards becoming India s second-largest telecom services provider. Mukesh Ambani has given occasional glimpses into his plans to foray into e-commerce in India by leveraging Jio telecom network and existing small retail stores. RIL plans to tie up with small retail stores in the state of Gujarat, to begin with, which will cater to the customers orders placed online.