Debenhams has held secret talks about a potential bid for Moss Bros, according to The Sunday Times.

The revelation follows hot on the heels of a provisional offer for the menswear chain of 42p a share by Icelandic retail group Baugur.

Debenhams' preliminary talks with Moss Bros have now been suspended.

The report that Debenhams considered buying Moss Bros will surprise many industry observers who have witnessed the department store group's share price plummet since its flotation.

Baugur’s outline bid would value Moss Bros at nearly£40 million, but hopes of a higher bid pushed the menswear chain’s share price up to 46.75p on Friday. The Icelandic investor has until the end of April to formalise its offer, or walk away from a potential deal.

Vaarious investors have been building stakes in Moss Bros. Greenwoods founder John Hanson acquired a 2.8 per cent stake and fashion chain Laura Ashley holds about 6 per cent. In addition, Moss Bros revealed that a mystery investor has bought a 7.9 per cent stake through French bank Credit Agricole.

Moss Bros operates 150 stores and runs franchises for Hugo Boss and Canali. Its operations include Savoy Taylors Guild, Cecil Gee and mail order division Moss Direct.