Reliance Retail has emerged as an interested party for the takeover of Debenhams, as talks continue.
According to Sky News, Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man and the powerhouse behind one of the country’s largest conglomerates, has emerged as a contender to take control of Debenhams, which has been in administration since April.
The Reliance Retail group bought toy store Hamleys last year and is now reported to be among the parties in discussions with advisers to Debenhams about acquiring part or all of the retailer.
Sources have claimed that Reliance’s interest would not necessarily develop into a formal bid for Debenhams, however one insider said that the group’s interest appeared to be serious.
An auction of Debenhams has been underway for several weeks, with investment bankers at Lazard responsible for co-ordinating talks with potential buyers. The emergence of Reliance as a prospective bidder has come as a surprise, and the group’s participation in the sale process may ultimately involve it bidding for only part of the department store chain’s assets, according to insiders. However, there is also speculation that the move could potentially see Debenhams, which closed its toy departments, reintroduce the category with Hamleys concessions.
Sky News has previously cited sources as saying that Debenhams was keen to agree a takeover by the end of September, but better-than-expected trading has slowed the urgency of that timetable in recent weeks, with company chairman, Mark Gifford, reporting that Debenhams had substantially more cash on its balance sheet than anticipated, meaning that it was “not on a cliff-edge”.
Nevertheless, Debenhams’ administrator, has lined up Hilco Capital to oversee a liquidation, in case a sale to a third party or an injection of capital from its most recent owners does not materialise.
Reliance Industries has also recently been in talks with Amazon, offering to sell as much as a 40% stake in its retail subsidiary arm, Reliance Retail Ventures, to the online retailer.