India’s retail tycoon Mukesh Ambani pulls out of race to buy Debenhams

Debenhams gift cards expire as Mike Ashley considers empty stores
Speculation mounts over whether Mike Ashley will place an offer on a portion of Debenhams' stores.
// Reliance Retail owner Mukesh Ambani is believed to be no longer in the running to buy Debenhams
// Sources close to the process say multiple other parties remain interested

India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani has dropped out of the race to buy Debenhams, according to the Sunday Times.

Ambani’s Reliance Retail emerged last month as a possible suitor to make a bid on Debenhams.

At the time, Ambani was one of a small number of interested parties in discussions with advisors to acquire all or part of the embattled department store chain.

READ MORE: India’s richest man eyes up Debenhams acquisition

As chairman, managing director and the largest shareholder of Reliance Industries, Ambani’s retail empire also owns British toy retailer Hamleys.

However a source close to the sales process cited by the Sunday Times this weekend said Reliance was no longer involved, although multiple parties are said to remain interested.

Investment firm Lazard has been overseeing the sale process of Debenhams’ core business in the UK, and had asked interested buyers to submit offers by 5pm on September 1.

The deadline passed with no immediate resolution, with reports earlier this month suggesting it was only a “checkpoint” to confirm if there was interest in a rescue deal.

Debenhams reportedly wanted to strike a deal by the end of September otherwise it would start exploring other options.

The department store chain began the sales process of its Danish retail business Magasin du Nord earlier in September in a bid to generate between £150 million and £200 million.

Restructuring firm Hilco Capital has also been drafted in to work on “contingency plans” for Debenhams, should a sale or other rescue be unsuccessful.

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