Hamleys up for sale as directors bid to buy-out

Two directors of Hamleys aim to stage a management buy-out of the famous toy retailer.

Chief operating officer John Watkinson and finance director Ian Parker have been granted authorisation by the board to put together a bid for an as yet undisclosed sum.

The retailer issued a statement on Monday saying: 'Matters are at a very preliminary stage and this may or may not lead to an offer being made.'

Executive chairman Simon Burke is not part of the team making the bid.

However, he and two non-executive directors - John Napier and Jim Hodkinson - have formed a committee to consider any proposal. They are being advised by Close Brothers Corporate Finance.

At the start of the week, Hamleys' shares were at a 52-week low of 126.5p but, after the news emerged, its capitalisation rose to just over£31.9 million.

Like-for-like sales for the Hamleys brand for the 13 weeks to December 28 rose 11.3 per cent, and at the flagship Regent Street store they were up 8.3 per cent.

However, concerns about shopper traffic in London - where there has been disruption because of the Central Line closure - have affected sentiment towards the retailer.

In late 2000, venture capitalists - including Apax, Alchemy and Charterhouse Development Capital - held talks with Hamleys about buying the business, but no price could be agreed. Soon afterwards, there was renewed speculation about a sale, for up to£40 million, after advisors were appointed to explore options.