Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group declines to make formal bid for Mulberry

Simon Neville, PA City Editor
·2-min read

Mike Ashley’s retail empire has confirmed it will not make a formal bid for luxury handbag maker Mulberry.

Frasers Group told the stock market that, having built up a 36.8% stake in the Somerset-based company, no further action will be taken.

The retailer had until Thursday to make a formal bid or walk away from the takeover process.

Frasers Group, which runs Sports Direct and House of Fraser, first took a stake in Mulberry in February, before it more than doubled its holding to around 29% in November.

Later that same month, it bought a further 4.3 million shares at 150p, snapping them up from Icelandic bank Kaupthing, which owned fashion brands Oasis and Warehouse before they collapsed into administration earlier this year.

Alex Monoploy abseils down Flannels store
Mike Ashley is keen to bring his retail empire more upmarket through his Flannels stores (Giles Anderson/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 it entirely.

However, because another investor already owns a majority stake in Mulberry Frasers was under no obligation to make a full-scale takeover.

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

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 reported a 29% fall in group sales to £48.9 million for the six months to September 26, alongside a pre-tax loss of £2.4 million – down from £10.1 million a year ago as it cut costs and boosted online trade.

Sales declines hit 39% in the first quarter before paring back to 18% in the following three months as trading improved.

Mulberry said recent sales in the eight weeks to November 21 fell 19%, with trade hit by retail closures due to the second English lockdown.

The company has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and in June bosses cut its workforce of 1,500 by a quarter.