Swiss retail group Maus Fréres, which owns the Lacoste brand, has made a SEK5.2bn (US$811.4m) unsolicited offer for Swedish fashion firm Gant Company.

The group is prepared to invest in Gant's geographical expansion, it said, through global marketing targeted at the US and Japanese marketplace.

Maus Fréres CEO Didier Maus said: "An acquisition of Gant is well in line with Maus Fréres' long-term strategy to increase its exposure to the affordable luxury segment."

Gant Company released the following statement this morning (11 December): "Today Maus Fréres SA has presented a public bid for all shares in Gant Company AB.

"The board of directors of Gant will now make an assessment and revert with a recommendation to the shareholders of Gant well in time before the acceptance period terminates."

All three of Gant's owners, which together have around 40% of the company's shares, are in a position to block the offer - but have so far made no indication they will do so.

However, Bloomberg today quotes Gant Chairman Lennart Bjoerk as saying the bid is "way below the value of the company".

Fréres, the largest privately held retail group in Switzerland, made the offer through its Procastor subsidiary.

Procastor has already snapped up 12.5% of Gant, and its takeover bid represents a 31% premium over the closing price of Gant shares yesterday, which was SEK236.5.

Guy Latourrette, CEO of Maus Fréres International, said: "We believe that we have a very attractive cash offer for Gant and we hope that the owners will recognise that this is an attractive offer for all shareholders, and will support it.

"We hope to convince the existing leadership of Gant to join us in the continued journey to develop the company. Even if this offer is unsolicited we aim to get everyone on board as soon as possible and we have no hostile intentions."

Frères' annual turnover is approximately CHF5.9bn. For several years, the company has pursued a strategy of increasing its portfolio of international brands in the garment industry, and develop its presence in the high-end and 'affordable luxury' segments.

The company said its strategy is to "develop the Gant operations and the Gant brand further as a business with its own distinctive identity and spirit".

It continued: "Under Maus Frères' ownership the Gant brand would benefit from significant financial support to further strengthen global marketing of the brand and to speed up Gant's geographical expansion, mainly in the US and Japan.

"Maus Frères' experience of building the Lacoste brand shows the need for substantial investments in marketing and the establishment of world class distribution channels."