The Mike Ashley-owned Frasers Group has acquired a stake in global handbag retailer Mulberry as part of what it calls the strategic “elevation of our retail proposition”.

In a statement on the London Stock Exchange this afternoon, Frasers Group said it had acquired a 12.5% economic interest in Mulberry Group, which it described as a “global luxury brand with a rich British heritage”.

Frasers Group said the acquisition was part of “a key strategic priority” being the “elevation of our retail proposition and building stronger relationships with premium third-party brands”.

It said it “looks forward to working more closely with Mulberry for the benefit of shareholders of both companies”.

Mulberry had a reasonably challenging year in 2019, reporting that its losses widened at its interim results in November to £9.9m before tax.

Sales for the period inched up 0.8% year on year, driven predominantly by strong international sales growth of 12% – particularly in Asia, which accounted for 14% of all sales. UK revenues by comparison fell 4%.

Ashley meanwhile spent much of 2019 locked in a battle with a number of brands such as Nike and Adidas as both sportswear giants increasingly looked to move to a direct-to-consumer model and cut out retailers like his own Sports Direct.

The Sports Direct founder went so far as to call on the Competition and Markets Authority to open an investigation into the likes of Nike and Adidas, for refusing to “supply key products” to the retailer “with no apparent justification”.