Galen Weston, the Canadian billionaire who wants to buy Selfridges, said in a statement Friday that his company, Oxford Acquisitions Ltd., had purchased 29.5 million shares — or 19.12 percent of the retailer — from shareholders since his offer went out to them last month. Weston, whose $1.14 billion bid has been approved by the Selfridges board, now has a total of 29.22 percent of the company, which includes the shares he already owns. The statement added that the selling period had been extended until June 25, and the offer will become unconditional when Weston has 50 percent or more of the Selfridges shares. A Selfridges spokeswoman declined to comment on whether any other bids have been made to the Selfridges board, but sources said all potential bidders, including the property tycoon Robert Tchenguiz, have fallen silent over the past few weeks. It is not unusual for shareholders to wait until the very last minute to sell their shares in the hope that a more generous bidder arrives on the scene. — Samantha Conti

JUST A SECOND: Costume National is hoping to cash in on the lucrative world of secondary lines and is teaming up with licensee IT Holding to produce a new collection aimed at a younger clientele. Costume National designer Ennio Capasa will oversee all creative aspects of the new women’s and men’s lines of the still-to-be-named collection. Capasa said he decided to develop a second line to “explore a territory intimately connected to my style’s roots” and create a link to the next generation. The license with IT Holding is for five years, renewable for another five years. The first collection bows for fall-winter 2004-2005. IT Holding declined to disclose sales targets but has made a name for itself by producing secondary lines for designers like Dolce & Gabbana, Versace and Roberto Cavalli. — Amanda Kaiser

GETTING ACTIVE: Maus Freres, the Swiss group that owns the licensing rights to the Lacoste sportswear brand via its Devanlay manufacturing firm, said it would acquire a majority stake in French activewear firm Aigle.Maus said it would pay $91.6 million for a 63.1 percent stake in the 150-year-old French firm, best known for its hunting gear and rubber boots. Maus also said it would seek to acquire the remainder of the firm and delist Aigle from trading on Paris’s Second Marche. Aigle’s worldwide sales last year reached about $152 million. Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange.Aigle has already been burnishing its image. It tapped Paris designer Eric Bergere to design a capsule collection for fall. The deal also comes as Aigle, best known in France and Asia, eyes further international expansion. It recently signed a distribution agreement with Dillard’s department stores to introduce the brand to the United States. Starting in September, Dillard’s plans to open 110 Aigle shop in-shops. As for Maus, the Aigle acquisition cements its position in France. The family-owned group purchased Devanlay five years ago and brought in new management and creative teams to spruce up Lacoste. —Robert Murphy

WHEN IN ROME: Antonio Berardi is scheduled to show his fall-winter 2003 collection in Rome next month, during the city’s couture shows. This is a first for the designer, produced by Gibò, whose clothes often display couture-like craftsmanship and handmade details. “Organizers there are trying to change what Rome is all about and rejuvenate the couture shows. I decided to accept the offer, seeing it also as another opportunity to show my clothes,” said the designer, who will also pull some designs out of his archive for the occasion and show only black items. Also in Rome, Krizia’s Mariuccia Mandelli will receive an honorary award for her career. — Luisa Zargani

THE LOWDOWN: Italy’s fashion industry reported a 2.5 percent loss in sales for 2002 to $83.1 billion from $85.3 billion the previous year. Exports dropped 5.3 percent to $47.6 billion, while imports rose 7.3 percent to $25.1 billion. At a press conference, Mario Boselli, president of Italy’s Chamber of Fashion, said that six months into 2003, “the situation is even worse than 12 months ago, which already was particularly negative.” He attributed the bleak outlook to the strengthening of the euro compared to the dollar. The chamber does not expect industry sales to overpass last year’s. — L.Z.

JUST IN TIME: Swiss watch firm TechnoMarine has moved into the European time zone, last week opening its first shop on the Continent, on Paris’s Rue Marbeuf. The 400-square-foot unit, which features all of the brand’s lines, boasts aquarium-like display cases and underwater motifs projected onto the walls. The shop signals a period of expansion for the company, founded in 1997 by Franck Dubarry. A unit in Saint Tropez is scheduled to bow within the next year and future locations are being scouted in major cities, including London and Berlin, according to a spokeswoman. TechnoMarine already has shops in Hong Kong, Japan, Columbia and Venezuela. — R.M.BEST BUST: The Manufacturers Association in France last Thursday handed out its “Oscars” to the member companies that did the best job of battling counterfeiters. Although Gillette was the big winner, Cartier was awarded an honorable mention for its efforts. Cartier discovered and disabled an Internet venture that sold counterfeit Cartier products online to unassuming customers, costing the company some $4.8 million in lost sales. The Manufacturers Association was founded by Cartier, Chanel, L’Oréal, Lacoste and LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, among others. About 900,000 counterfeit products have been confiscated in France since the beginning of the year, up 180 percent from 2002, when a total of 1.2 million articles were seized. — Emilie Marsh

VENETIAN KINDS: Mariella Burani Fashion Group has further diversified into leather accessories. The company has bought 60 percent of Venetian accessories company Francesco Biasia for $11.9 million. Mariella Burani said it won’t pay cash and will instead give the firm’s owners Francesco and Claudio Biasia a stake of 11.3 percent in Burani’s Antichi Pellettieri division. Francesco Biasia generated a pretax profit of about $3.2 million on sales of $38.6 million. — A.K.

LOCATION, LOCATION: Independent directors of the U.K. department store chain Debenhams plc have ordered a revaluation of the group’s property assets in the wake of a $2.4 billion indicative takeover bid they received in mid-May from the venture capitalist group, Permira. The company’s portfolio was last valued in 1995 at approximately $548 million, and some analysts estimate the freehold and long leasehold properties of the 102-store chain could now be worth $984 million. A spokeswoman for Debenhams, however, believes the figure to be nearer $656 million.

As reported, Permira is working with Debenham’s chief executive Belinda Earl and her management team on the buyout. Permira has recently brought in Stuart Rose, the former chief executive of the clothing group Arcadia, who would be appointed the nonexecutive chairman of Debenhams should the bid be successful.

Analysts say Rose’s appointment would help Permira to secure the necessary financing from Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS Warburg to complete its deal. Permira has until the end of June to examine Debenhams’ books and is not expected to approach the board with a full offer until early July. — S.C.

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