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Bankrupt Debenhams Might Have a White Knight Lined Up

Bankrupt Debenhams has attracted interest from an overseas investor.

In April, the fashion chain filed fell into administration, the U.K. equivalent of a U.S. bankruptcy, and slashed 2,500 jobs last month in an effort to stay afloat. Lazard, the retailer’s banker, had been hoping to wrap up a Debenhams sale by the end of this month.

India’s Reliance Retail is now a contender to acquire the bankrupt department store group, Sky News reported. Reliance Retail is the retail arm of Reliance Industries, owned by Mukesh Ambani, among the world’s top five richest people with a net worth of about $85 billion. It wasn’t immediately clear if Ambani is bidding for the entire department store group or only for some of its assets.

The Mumbai-based conglomerate’s retail unit received a $1 billion investment from U.S. private equity firm Silver Lake earlier this year for a 1.75 percent stake in the company. And now it is slated to sell a 1.28 percent stake in its retail arm to U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co. for $754 million. Both Silver Lake and KKR have been past investors in Reliance’s telecommunications businesses. Ambani has been slowly transforming the oil and gas businesses he inherited from his father, diversifying into telecommunications and retail.

Reliance Retail, India’s largest retail operator, acquired British toy store Hamleys from Hong Kong-based C.banner International for about $86.7 million last year. Last month, it agreed to a $3.4 billion acquisition of Future Group, India’s second-largest retailer, including its logistics and warehousing operations. Reliance is in the process of seeking approval of its Future Group transaction from the Competition Commission of India.