India’s richest man buys Hamleys toy stores

Mukesh Ambani, chairman and managing director, Reliance Industries. (Supplied)
Updated 10 May 2019

India’s richest man buys Hamleys toy stores

  • Through its Reliance Brands subsidiary, the conglomerate said it signed an agreement to buy, Hamleys, the 250-year-old chain from Hong Kong-listed C Banner International Holdings
  • The acquisition by Reliance Industries, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, marks the conglomerate’s first foray in an overseas retail brand

MUMBAI: Hamleys, the world’s oldest toy retailer, is set to pass from Chinese to Indian control after Reliance Industries said it had agreed to buy the British high street icon.
Through its Reliance Brands subsidiary, the conglomerate said it signed an agreement to buy the 250-year-old chain from Hong Kong-listed C Banner International Holdings.
On Friday, C Banner stock was suspended from trading pending an announcement.
Reliance did not disclose the price of the deal, but in 2018, C Banner wrote off $49.8 million in goodwill and brand value related to Hamleys, its annual report showed. The cut reduced the carrying value of the toy retailer by 36 percent to 626 million yuan ($91.85 million).
The Chinese group bought Hamleys in 2015 for $130.2 million from France’s Groupe Ludendo, but its enthusiasm for British acquisitions has since cooled. Last year, it dropped plans to buy 51 percent of House of Fraser, sending the UK department store chain into administration.
The acquisition by Reliance Industries, owned by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani, marks the conglomerate’s first foray in an overseas retail brand.
Reliance Industries runs the world’s biggest single-location crude oil refinery and has been transforming itself into a consumer-facing behemoth through ventures in retail and telecommunications.
“The worldwide acquisition of the iconic Hamleys brand and business places Reliance into the frontline of global retail,” said Reliance Brands Chief Executive Darshan Mehta.
Founded in 1760, Hamleys resonates with adults and children alike, with its flagship Regent Street store in central London recognized around the world.
The toy seller runs 167 stores across 18 countries, the majority of which are in India, Reliance said. The Indian company, which already holds the master franchise for the brand in India, currently operates 88 stores in 29 cities.
Having established itself as India’s leading mobile telecoms player, Reliance Industries has been firming up plans for a retail onslaught to combine its traditional outlets with an online foray aimed at taking on Amazon.com Inc. and Walmart Inc. in India.
A supermarket operator, Reliance is already the country’s biggest bricks-and-mortar retailer in terms of revenue and number of stores.
The conglomerate’s strategy to diversify beyond refining and petrochemicals has seen its fast-growing telecoms and retail operations driving quarterly profit to record highs at a time when its gross refining margins have taken a hit from oil price volatility and slowing global demand.
The group’s retail business doubled revenue to 356 billion rupees ($5.1 billion) in the three months to Dec. 31 while earnings before interest and tax more than tripled to 15 billion rupees.


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.