South African billionaire Christo Wiese has set up a British shell company as he is poised to launch a series of retail takeovers, it is understood.

The company is trading under the name Pepkor UK after Wiese’s retail investment group Pepkor, which owns retail chains overseas, according to the Daily Mail.

The British division is being led by former Asda boss Andy Bond and his business partner Mark Elliott.

The step up in activity has triggered speculation that Bond and Wiese, who is worth almost £2bn, may be preparing to make an approach to Arcadia owner Sir Philip Green for his Bhs department store chain. Wiese said in November that he was eyeing the chain.

The UK team is understood to be looking at a number of possible deals for smaller chains in the UK fashion market. And in recent weeks Bond is thought to have begun setting up a management infrastructure and actively working on plans to buy assets.