Baugur takes stake in House of Fraser

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Baugur, the acquisitive Icelandic group which owns a string of well-known UK retailers, snapped up a key stake in the department stores group House of Fraser yesterday.

The dawn raid by Baugur helped House of Fraser shares to climb 10.25p higher after almost 12 per cent of the company's equity changed hands at about 134p, a 9 per cent premium to the opening price. House of Fraser shares closed up 9 per cent at 135.25p.

Baugur owns Hamley's, the frozen food retailer Iceland, the jewellers Mappin & Webb and Goldsmiths and a string of fashion chains.

The latest share buying suggests that while some Icelandic investors are cashing in their holdings in the face of an economic squeeze back home, Baugur is continuing to expand abroad.

The purchase of the stake in House of Fraser is not thought, however, to be the prelude to a full-blown takeover bid.

More than 21 million House of Fraser shares were traded yesterday in exceptionally heavy volumes for the FTSE 250 retailer. Merrill Lynch sold the stock, which included 8.76 million shares on behalf of Blue Crest Capital Management, a London-based hedge fund.

Baugur's move comes just weeks after Apax, the private-equity firm, approached House of Fraser before walking away.