India's Reliance Industries buys global toy retailer Hamleys

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Asia's richest man Mukesh Ambani's company, Reliance Industries, will buy the iconic British toy-maker Hamleys for £67.96 million ($88 million, or ₹620 crore) in an all-cash deal.

This acquisition will catapult Reliance Brands to be a dominant player in the global toy retail industry, the company said in a statement.

Reliance Industries already operates 88 Hamleys stores across 29 Indian cities.

The toy seller runs 167 stores across 18 countries, the majority of which are in India, Reliance said.

Through its Reliance Brands subsidiary, the company signed an agreement to buy Hamleys from Hong Kong-listed C Banner International Holdings.

The 67.96 million pound deal by Reliance is lower than the 100 million pounds that the Chinese group had paid to France's Groupe Ludendo in 2015.

Hamleys was also reporting losses until recently. Two of the 10 Hamleys stores in South Africa closed this year when their franchisee filed for bankruptcy protection.

Currently, RIL retail arm Reliance Retail has the licence to sell Hamleys' products in India.

Reliance Retail includes Reliance Fresh, Reliance Smart, Reliance Market, Reliance Digital, Jio Stores, Reliance Trends, Project Eve, Reliance Footprint, Reliance Jewels, AJIO and other partner brands. "Over the last few years, we have built a very significant and profitable business in toy retailing under the Hamleys brand in India". "This 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 became the new global norm", Mehta said, according to PTI. Before that, it was owned by the now defunct Icelandic investment group Baugur, which bought it off the stock exchange in 2003.

Hamleys, which was founded in 1760 and opened its flagship store on London's Regent Street in 1881, has been something of an worldwide hot potato in recent years.

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

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