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India's richest man eyes Debenhams purchase

Lauretta Roberts
23 September 2020

Reliance Retail, owned by India's richest man Mukesh Ambani, is a surprise contender to take control of struggling department store chain Debenhams.

Reliance Retail acquired British toy retailer Hamley's last year and is one of the names in the frame to acquire Debenhams, which is currently in administration.

According to Sky News, while there is no certainty that Reliance Retail's interest would lead to a bid, the group is seriously interested in the chain. However, should a bid be forthcoming it may only be for part of the chain.

Debenhams was placed into administration in April, in a move its investors insisted was a safeguarding of the business during the crisis.

Since lockdown was initially loosened in June for non-essential retail, Debenhams has re-opened 124 of its stores.

Bankers from Lazard have been holding a sales process as a possible exit route from administration for Debenhams, which was acquired last year in a pre-pack administration deal by a consortium of investors, called Celine, and led by Silverpoint Capital.

Debenhams chairman Mark Gifford has said that the business has been trading better than expected since lockdown, which is said to have reduced the urgency to secure bids for the business by the end of the month. However while Debenhams may be trading well, it is benefiting form significant government aid, including a business rates holiday.

Administrators have FRP Advisory have also lined up Hilco to act as a liquidator for the business as a precautionary measure.

Mike Ashley's Frasers Group is reportedly interested in 30 Debenhams stores but despite having tried to take full control of the business in the past, he said to be cool on the idea of taking on the whole chain now.


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