Financier Emilio Gnutti Hopa is to buy a five per cent stake in Mariella Burani Fashion Group SpA, with the apparel retailer agreeing to buy a knitwear company from Hopa.

In a statement, Hopa said it would buy a 2.5 per cent stake in Mariella Burani on the open market and a further 2.5 per cent stake from the controlling Burani family at EUR8 per share - a total investment of about EUR11 million.

Mariella Burani, in turn, has announced it will acquire Le Tricot Perugia SpA from Hopa for EUR5.37m.

Le Tricot Perugia, a cashmere knitwear maker, posted sales of EUR12m last year, 95 per cent of which was export-based.

In the first nine months of 2003, Mariella Burani earned EUR280m from sales of Rene Lezard, Biasia and its namesake apparel brands, an increase of 25 per cent on the same period last year.