A Chinese investor is said to be closing in on a deal to buy the UK’s most famous toy store Hamleys in the coming weeks.
Ludendo, the French family-owned toy group, is in advanced talks to sell the chain to a Hong Kong company run by a relative of Yuan Yafei, the billionaire owner House of Fraser, the Sunday Times said.
A spokesperson last night said: “There is always interest in Hamleys. I cannot comment on recent press articles."
Hamleys has been at the centre of bid speculation for months after Yafei was rumoured to be interesting in buying the 255 year-old toy shop himself, hot on the heels of his company Sanpower’s acquisition of House of Fraser last year.
Ludendo, has owned Hamleys for less than three years, having bought the retailer from the failed Icelandic bank Landsbanki for £60m in 2012.
Under chief executive Gudjon Reynisson it has expanded its presence overseas with 10 stores in the UK and more than 43 overseas. Sales rose 15 per cent to £62m last year, with pre-tax profits up by a quarter to £4.5m.
Hamleys was established by Cornishman William Hamley in 1760 in High Holborn and was originally known as Noah’s Ark.
It moved to its Regent Street flagship store in 1881, becoming one of the most popular tourist attractions in the capital’s West End.
It faces increased competition from a new Middle Eastern-owned shop called The Toy Store, which is set to open on Oxford Street in the West One shopping centre next to Bond Street tube station in the near future.