Clarks International, the UK's biggest shoe brand, has taken another step forward in its plans for overseas expansion with the acquisition of Elefanten, one of the best-known names in the German shoe business. Elefanten has been sold by the industrial conglomerate Freudenberg in a deal worth £23 million (DM71 million).

The purchase is Clarks' first in fifteen years, and follows a period of restructuring in the UK aimed at improving the product and reducing overheads. It now hopes to push ahead with its goal of becoming the world's leading company for branded casual and children's shoes.

"Both companies fit well together and will benefit from new distribution channels," said Tim Parker, Clarks' chief executive. "Through combined knowledge of research, production and marketing we will be better placed to meet the demand for well-fitted children's shoes worldwide."