Foschini, the South African group that owns Phase Eight and Whistles, has thrown its hat into the ring to buy womenswear brand Hobbs, The Sunday Times reported.

Hobbs – an apparent favourite of The Duchess of Cambridge – was put up for sale by its private equity owner 3i in January for £80m.

However, it is understood that Foschini is unwilling to fork out the full asking price.

Hobbs has also received interest from several private equity firms.

Investment bank Rothschild is handling the sale.

In 2015, Hobbs conducted a strategic review of the business after its pre-tax losses spiralled to £15.6m. It has since returned to financial health – generating £104.4m in sales and £1.4m of profit last year.