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.


New emissions blow for VW as German court backs damages claims

Updated 26 May 2020

New emissions blow for VW as German court backs damages claims

  • Scandal has already cost firm more than €30 billion; ruling serves as template for about 60,000 cases

KARLSRUHE, Germany: Volkswagen must pay compensation to owners of vehicles with rigged diesel engines in Germany, a court ruled on Monday, dealing a fresh blow to the automaker almost 5 years after its emissions scandal erupted.

The ruling by Germany’s highest court for civil disputes, which will allow owners to return vehicles for a partial refund of the purchase price, serves as a template for about 60,000 lawsuits that are still pending with lower German courts.

Volkswagen admitted in September 2015 to cheating in emissions tests on diesel engines, a scandal which has already cost it more than €30 billion ($33 billion) in regulatory fines and vehicle refits, mostly in the US.

US authorities banned the affected cars after the cheat software was discovered, triggering claims for compensation.

But in Europe vehicles remained on the roads, leading Volkswagen to argue compensation claims there were without merit. European authorities instead forced the company to update its engine control software and fined it for fraud and administrative lapses.

Volkswagen said on Monday it would work urgently with motorists on an agreement that would see them hold on to the vehicles for a one-off compensation payment.

It did not give an estimate of how much the ruling by the German federal court, the Bundesgerichtshof (BGH), might cost it.

Volkswagen shares were 0.5 percent lower. The BGH’s presiding judge had signaled earlier this month he saw grounds for compensation.

Costs mount

“The verdict by the BGH draws a final line. It creates clarity on the BGH’s views on the underlying questions in the diesel proceedings for most of the 60,000 cases still pending,” Volkswagen said.

A lower court in the city of Koblenz had previously ruled the owner of a VW Sharan minivan had suffered pre-meditated damage, entitling him to reimbursement minus a discount for the mileage the motorist had already
benefited from.

The court at the time said he should be awarded €25,600 for the used-car purchase he made for €31,500 in 2014.

“We have in principle confirmed the verdict from the Koblenz upper regional court,” said BGH presiding federal judge Stephan Seiters.

Volkswagen had petitioned for the ruling to be quashed altogether by the higher court, while the plaintiff had appealed to have the deduction removed.

A Volkswagen spokesman said that outside Germany, more than 100,000 claims for damages were still pending, of which 90,000 cases were in Britain.

The carmaker also said it had paid out a total of €750 million to more than 200,000 separate claimants in Germany who had opted against individual claims and instead joined a class action lawsuit brought by a German consumer group.

The carmaker said last month it would set aside a total of 830 million for that deal.

In a separate court, Volkswagen agreed last week to pay €9 million to end proceedings against its chairman and chief executive, who were accused of withholding market-moving information before the emissions scandal came to light.