LONDON — Icelandic investment firm Baugur Group has accumulated an 8.1 percent stake in Saks Fifth Avenue, becoming the luxury chain's second largest investor.

Baugur spent about $250 million, or $22 a share, to invest in Saks over the past few weeks, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.

Baugur's strategy for Saks is unclear. A Baugur spokesman declined to comment on whether the group intends to further build up its stake in Saks and seek control of the business. A source close to the company said that was not Baugur's strategy.

However, Aslaug Magnusdottir, vice president at Marvin Traub Associates, who formerly ran Baugur's venture business unit, observed: "If you look at the history of Baugur, it could go either way. There are examples of the company building up stakes in public businesses to [ultimately] control them, and examples of taking stakes in companies they believe to be undervalued and later selling the interest."

Magnusdottir also noted that Baugur has expressed intentions to expand internationally.

Saks had no comment. "It's our policy not to comment on shareholders," said Julia Bentley, senior vice president of investor relations and communications at Saks Inc., the parent of Saks Fifth Avenue.

Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim Helu, with other family members and through Immobiliaria Carso SA De CV, remains the largest shareholder with nearly 13.3 million shares, or 9.3 percent. Baugur is the largest institutional investor, followed by FMR Corp. at 10.5 million shares, or 7.38 percent of outstanding shares.

Baugur's interest in Saks is hardly surprising. Last summer, Baugur led a consortium that took over midmarket U.K. department store chain House of Fraser. It has since taken House of Fraser private.

Baugur also holds a 5 percent stake in midmarket U.K. department store retailer Debenhams, but Baugur said in a statement last week it had no intention to bid for the British chain.

Magnusdottir and another source concurred that Baugur may use its stake in Saks to help introduce its fashion labels into the U.S. market.

Baugur Group's other British investments include the jewelry retailer Goldsmiths and the toy emporium Hamleys; women's apparel chains Jane Norman and MK One, and Mosaic Fashions, which incorporates Karen Millen and Whistles.Late last year, Baugur chief Jon Asgeir Johannesson said he was planning to open a U.S. office in 2007, and to make acquisitions in the U.S. Baugur's other fashion investments include a minority stake in Matthew Williamson, and a 50 percent stake in PPQ, a label designed by Percy Parker and Amy Molyneaux.

Saks stock closed at $20.40 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange, down 77 cents from $21.17 the day before.

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