Grapevine: Reliance in race to buy British retailer Debenhams
Photo Credit: Reuters

Billionaire Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Retail has emerged as a surprise contender to acquire part or all of the 242-year-old UK-based retailer Debenhams, a media report said.

However, it is uncertain if Reliance would make a formal bid for the department store chain, Sky News reported, citing sources it didn’t identify.

Debenhams has been on the block for several weeks and was put in administration in April. The report said that the British chain was keen to agree to a takeover by the end of September, but its cash position has improved recently.

The chain has 120 stores in the UK. It also trades from 45 sites in 17 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia under various franchise agreements.

The development comes at a time when Reliance has been rapidly expanding its retail empire, as it seeks to reduce dependence on its core energy and petrochemicals business.

Last year, Reliance Retail Ltd bought the iconic British toy store Hamleys.

Earlier this year, the conglomerate agreed to acquire Future Group’s retail business in a multi-billion-dollar deal.

Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd, the group’s holding firm for the retail business, has also raised funding from two marquee private equity firms—$1 billion from Silver Lake and $755 million from KKR, and is looking for more investors.

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