Hamleys, the 255-year-old toy retailer, is on the verge of being bought by a Chinese footwear company.
C.banner International Holdings is expected to confirm a deal on Thursday to buy the business for about £100m.
The company released a statement on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange saying it had requested the suspension of its shares pending the release of an announcement in relation to a possible acquisition.
The expected deal comes in a week that has seen a state visit to Britain by President Xi Jinping that sealed £40bn worth of trade deals, including an £18bn investment in the Hinkley Point nuclear plant, controlled by EDF of France.
Hamleys is best known for its flagship store on Regent Street in London, where it hosts children’s parties and where Father Christmas will soon greet youngsters.
The retailer has expanded across the UK – adding stores in Cardiff, Glasgow and Manchester – and overseas in recent years, including opening Europe’s largest toystore in Moscow in March. It is also said to be considering expansion into the US.
Hamleys was bought by the French retailer Groupe Ludendo in 2012. It was previously owned by a consortium of investors including the Icelandic bank Landsbanki, which collapsed in the financial crash.
Hamleys was launched as Noah’s Ark in 1760 by William Hamley, a Cornishman from Bodmin, who stocked tin soldiers, wooden horses and rag dolls.
In 1881, a new branch of the shop opened in Regent Street, although at a different location from its current one.
In the late 1920s, Hamleys faced tough times, and in 1931 was forced to close. It reopened later that year after being bought out by Walter Lines, co-owner of Tri-ang Toys. Lines was rewarded with a royal warrant from Queen Mary in 1938.
The Regent Street store was bombed five times during the second world war and staff are said to have served at the shop entrance wearing tin hats during the blitz.
Hamleys was issued with a second royal warrant by Queen Elizabeth II, who bought toys there for her children in 1955.