Hamleys owner C Banner pursues House of Fraser stake

News is emerging that China’s C Banner International Holdings (CBIH) is in talks with the owner of House of Fraser to buy a stake in the struggling department store chain.


House of Fraser could end up in the same hands as the Hamleys toy chain


It is believed that Nanjing Xinjiekou, a subsidiary of HoF owner Sanpower, which wants to shed its 89% stake in the chain, signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on Tuesday in Hong Kong with the company that also controls the Hamleys toy store chain.

The MoU isn't actually a deal to buy HoF, but it does mean the two are have entered into talks regarding a sale, the Press Association reported. 

It's unclear how soon any agreement might be reached, but reports suggested that further information would be available later on Tuesday, although with talks being in their early stages, that information is likely to be little more than confirmation of the discussions.

It’s also unclear where this leaves Chinese tourism specialist Wuji Wenhua, which had been talking to Nanjing about buying a 51% stake in HoF. 

News that CBIH is interested in the chain may come as some slight relief to retail insiders in the UK with its controlling stake in Hamleys meaning much more is known about it than about Wuji Wenhua, which is a completely unknown entity in Britain.

HoF has been struggling in recent periods and there have been suggestions that it would enter a company voluntary arrangement (CVA). While this was dismissed as speculation by the firm, it did confirm that it had called in advisors from KPMG.

Its current owner has pumped £30 million into the business and recently reaffirmed its commitment to its turnaround, although the latest news shows that it is still looking for an exit.

CBIH is best known as a footwear specialist and it owns or has licenses for brands ranging from C Banner to Eblan, Sundance, Mio, Ash, JC Collezione, United Nude, Badgely Mischka, and Steve Madden. 

The company bought Hamleys in October 2015 and first expressed an interest in House of Fraser two years ago.

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