Mike Ashley has raised his interest in Debenhams once again and now holds 17% of the department store group.

The retail mogul and billionaire founder of Sports Direct has been steadily increasing his interest in the Ian Cheshire-chaired chain over the past few months via a “contracts for differences” arrangement.

Sports Direct also has a put-option deal via Goldman Sachs which relates to a 10.5% position in Debenhams, which was extended for a second year last May.

The put option is a bet that Debenhams’ share price will rally, giving the owner the right to sell the shares at a prearranged fixed price. Sports Direct first took a 4.6% stake in the chain in January 2014.

If the share price were to rise above the agreed exercise price then Sports Direct would receive the premium, resulting in a likely profit for the billionaire tycoon.

The acquisitive Ashley has already procured a stake in French Connection and purchased upmarket lingerie chain Agent Provocateur this year.