Chinese footwear company C.banner International Holdings is in ‘advanced talks’ to buy Hamleys, with the Hong Kong-listed company is expected to confirm a deal to buy 255-year-old retailer for around £100m.
France’s Ludendo Groupe has owned Hamleys since 2012 after buying it for a cool £60m. Aside from being the closest place to the North Pole for many children, with its Regent Street flagship store renowned for its Christmas extravaganzas, the seven-floor toy store is a honey pot for tourists all year round.
As far as British brands go, it’s a solid pick as an established name and family favourite – and Hamleys could be a handy way for C.banner to diversify its business.
The toy store has a long and colourful history – despite being forced to close in 1931 following a tough period, it weathered the storm to reopen later that year, after being bought out by the co-owner of Tri-ang Toys, Walter Lines. He was honoured with a royal warrant from Queen Mary in 1938, before Hamleys was rewarded with a second one in 1955 by Queen Elizabeth II, who bought toys for her children from there.
The Chinese interest in Hamleys comes amid the government’s much trumpeted fanfare for President Xi Jinping, who is leaving the UK today after a four-day state visit. David Cameron and George Osborne are doing all they can to position the UK as the most attractive Western spot for investment – and it seems to be paying off.
Osborne was even given the dubious honour of being dubbed ‘the first Western official in recent years who focused on business potential rather than raising a magnifying glass to the "human rights issue"’ in Chinese state paper The Global Times, when he visited China in September.
As it stands, around £30bn of bilateral trade deals are expected to have been signed during the state visit, including EDF Energy’s controversial agreement with China General Nuclear Power Corporation for a nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point in Somerset.
The project has been criticised for its cost, as well as the delays to decisions on investment. The government has also come under fire for guaranteeing a price of £92.50 per megawatt of electricity for the electricity Hinkley produces, which is more than twice the current cost.