Pacific Retail Group, the New Zealand electronic and appliance retailer, today acquired a 15.5 per cent stake in apparel maker and retailer Bendon Group.

The 4.8 million shares were purchased from fund manager Tower Asset Management for NZ$2.00 per share.

Pacific Retail chief executive Peter Halkett said that the move was a departure from its traditional business activities, it mirrored the company's aspirations to expand and fitted its long-term strategy. Bendon manufactures and sells the Elle McPherson Intimates, Fayreform, Hey Sister and Hickory lingerie brands and also owns the Expozay swimwear line. 

Pacific Retail also said it did not know who was behind Monday's non-binding offer for Bendon, challenging an existing proposal from a consortium headed by managing director Hugo Venter.

Venter offered NZ$38.5 million for the company's sole operating subsidiary, Bendon Limited, in November. His bid is being supported by AMP Henderson, which has a 26 per cent stake in Bendon Group and is its biggest shareholder.

Bendon's chairman Ian Parton told Reuters the company had not had any prior talks with Pacific Retail and an independent appraisal report on Bendon was on track to be completed by the end of January.