Business / Corporate

Toys R Us in talks to sell majority stake in Asia unit, including Japan business

by Alex Martin

Staff Writer

Beleaguered retail chain Toys R Us Inc. is negotiating to sell its 85 percent stake in its Asian business, including the Japan operations.

A spokeswoman at Toys R Us Japan headquarters in Kawasaki confirmed Thursday that Toys R Us Asia Ltd., its parent, is in talks with multiple entities to sell most of its holdings in Asia.

The Hong Kong-based joint venture with Fung Retailing Ltd. includes over 400 physical stores and eight online stores across Hong Kong, Japan, China, Macau, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and Thailand, according to its website.

The iconic chain — known to generations of children and parents for its sprawling stores — first landed in Japan in 1991 and now operates 160 outlets in the nation, employing around 6,500 people. Worldwide, Toys R Us had about 60,000 full-time and part-time employees last year.

The spokeswoman said there were currently no plans to close stores or cut workers because of the potential move.

Bloomberg earlier reported that the U.S.-based company has received multiple bids of over $1 billion (about ¥107 billion) from prospective buyers for its Asian business, citing a lawyer for the company speaking Wednesday in bankruptcy court.

It said the Fung Group, which owns 15 percent of the Asia business, has been working with Lazard Ltd. to solicit bids for the Asia unit. Bloomberg also said the Fung Group considered taking over the business itself, and has helped solicit bids from potential buyers including Chinese private equity firms, citing people with knowledge of the discussions.

In March, Toys R Us said it had filed a motion seeking Bankruptcy Court approval to begin winding down its U.S. business and liquidate inventory in all 735 of its U.S. stores.

It also said it is pursuing a reorganization and sale process for its Canadian and international operations in Asia and central Europe, including Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The company’s international operations in Australia, France, Poland, Portugal and Spain are considering their options in light of the announcement, it said, including potential sale processes in their respective markets.

“I am very disappointed with the result, but we no longer have the financial support to continue the company’s U.S. operations,” Dave Brandon, chairman and CEO of Toys R Us, said in a statement at the time.

“We are therefore implementing an orderly process to shutter our U.S. operations and will pursue going concern sales or reorganizations of certain of our international businesses, while our other international businesses consider their options.”