Retail entrepreneur buys stake in Mulberry

Kevin Stanford, the retail entrepreneur who is closely involved with Iceland's acquisitive Baugur group, revealed yesterday he had taken a 3 per cent in Mulberry, the luxury goods group.

Shares in Mulberry, which is renowned for its leather bags, shot up 18 per cent to 123.5p on speculation it could become the next bid target in the UK's shrinking, quoted retail sector.

Mr Stanford, who sold his Karen Millen chain to Baugur last year, acquired the shares via Kaupthing Bank. The Icelandic investment bank has advised Baugur, in which it is a shareholder, on most of its recent acquisitions, from Karen Millen to Big Food Group.

Mulberry disclosed the identity of its mystery shareholder hours after it announced some of the strongest Christmas trading figures seen anywhere on the high street. It expects its pre-tax profits to exceed market forecasts.

Mr Stanford bought 1.48 million shares in Mulberry, adding to his expanding retail investment portfolio. As well as retaining a 15 per cent stake in his Karen Millen to Whistles group he took an 8.26 per cent stake in Baugur. He recently upped his shareholding in Moss Bros, the menswear chain, to 23 per cent.

Godfrey Davis, the chairman and chief executive of Mulberry, said orders for the group's women's handbags are soaring. Its Roxanne bags have become must-have items for the fashion jetset, competing with the likes of Hermes' Birkin bag in the popularity stakes.

Mulberry reported like-for-like sales growth of 15 per cent for the five-week Christmas period, building on the 14 per cent jump in underlying sales for the 14 weeks to 1 January. It said orders from the US and Asia, would exceed £1m, beating internal expectations.

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