255-yr old UK toy retailer Hamleys to be sold to Chinese footwear maker

Hamleys, the 255-year-old toy retailer, is being sold to a Chinese footwear company for an estimated £100 million.

The move has been confirmed by C.banner International Holdings, which said discussions to buy Hamleys from its French owner were at an ''advanced stage''.

The company released a statement on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange last afternoon saying it was, ''in the process of negotiating and finalising the definitive documentation with a view to entering into a legally binding agreement in the near future.''

However, it added that no definitive agreement had been entered into.

The expected sale comes during the state visit to the UK by the Chinese president Xi Jinping, during which, £40 billion worth of trade deals were sealed, including an £18-billion investment in the Hinkley Point nuclear plant, controlled by EDF of France.

Hamleys is well known for its seven-storey flagship store on Regent Street in London, where Father Christmas greets youngsters at Christmas.

The expected sale to a owner comes as the latest episode in the store's turbulent recent ownership history, which had seen it pass into Icelandic and then French hands.

The store has emerged as part of the London tourist trail and has been seen as quintessentially British, even under foreign ownership – a trait it shared with several other local landmarks.

Harrods, another of the capital's other big historic retail brands, is owned by Qatar Holdings; Hong Kong-based Dickson Concepts owns Harvey Nichols; and Royal tailor Gieves & Hawkes forms part of Hong Kong-listed Trinity Ltd.

C.banner International, which specialises in women's footwear under brands including MIO and Sundance, said it was interested in Hamleys' strong brand as part of a plan to diversify its business.

It also intends to develop ''strategic partnership'' for distributing toys and children's products via British department store House of Fraser – which was bought by Chinese conglomerate Sanpower last year, Reuters reported.

Chairman Chen Yixi said, ''A strong brand is an outstanding resource. Acquisition of a world-renowned brand could greatly enhance the company's competitive advantages,'' The Guardian reported.