Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group increases stake in handbag maker Mulberry

Mike Ashley’s retail empire has increased its stake in Mulberry to own more than a third of the luxury handbag maker in a move worth more than £6 million.

Frasers Group, which runs Sports Direct and House of Fraser, said it has bought 4.3 million shares at 150p each to increase its ownership of the Somerset-based company to 36.8%.

It purchased the shares from Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which owned fashion brands Oasis and Warehouse before they collapsed into administration earlier this year.

Frasers Group first took a stake in Mulberry in February, before it more than doubled its holding to around 29% earlier this month.

Newcastle United file photo
Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has also invested in Huge Boss this year in a bid to move his business more upmarket (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Under Takeover Panel rules, any group which takes a stake of more than 30% in a business is typically required to make an offer to buy the whole business.

However, the takeover authorities said on Thursday that Frasers Group does not have to place a bid as another investor already owns a majority stake in Mulberry.

Challice, the investment vehicle for Singapore’s Ong Family, owns around 56% of the business.

Nevertheless, Frasers still has the right to make an offer to buy Mulberry outright and must now confirm whether it intends to make a takeover bid by December 17, according to new filings to the London Stock Exchange.

Frasers also acquired a stake in German luxury brand Hugo Boss this year as it pushes forward with efforts to shift its image to be more upmarket.

Last month, Mulberry revealed that its losses plunged nearly tenfold to £47.9 million in the year to March 31, before feeling the full impact of the pandemic.

In June, it cut its workforce of 1,500 by a quarter after demand for its luxury products was hammered by coronavirus.

Shares in Frasers Group were 0.5% higher at 475.4p in early trading, while shares in Mulberry were 0.8% lower at 188p.

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