India’s richest man just bought Britain’s most iconic toy store chain.
Reliance, owned by billionaire Mukesh Ambani, is buying Hamleys from its Chinese owner C Banner International for around £68 million ($88 million).
The deal, announced late on Thursday, will give Ambani complete control of Hamleys’ 167 stores in 18 countries. Reliance already owns the rights to the brand in India, where it operates 88 Hamleys franchise stores.
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Ambani’s purchase will further his push into retail as he prepares to compete with Amazo and Walmar, which have poured billions into India as they try to cash in on the fast-growing e-commerce market.
“The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business places Reliance into the frontline of global retail,” Reliance Brands CEO Darshan Mehta said in a statement, describing it as a “long cherished dream come true.”
Ambani is well placed to make a big push into online retail. He has already taken India’s digital economy by storm with his mobile network Reliance Jio, which has signed up more than 300 million users in less than three years since it launched.
In a speech in January, he outlined plans to leverage that digital clout to take the Reliance Retail brand — one of India’s biggest — online in the near future.
By purchasing Hamleys — a renowned 259-year-old British retailer whose flagship outlet on London’s Regent Street is also a tourist attraction — Ambani may also be setting himself up to take on rivals way beyond India.
The Mumbai-based billionaire isn’t the only wealthy Indian to own one of the United Kingdom’s most storied brands. Tata Motors (TTM), owned by Ratan Tata, acquired British carmaker Jaguar Land Rover in 2008.