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Ikea-linked investment company buys US$190m H&M stake

London

AN INVESTMENT company linked to home-furnishings giant Ikea has bought a US$190 million stake in clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB, bringing two of Sweden's best-known retail brands financially closer.

Interogo Holding AG of Switzerland now owns about 10.2 million shares worth 1.7 billion Swedish kronor (S$261.5 million). The acquisition of the 0.6 per cent stake comes at a critical time for H&M as chairman Stefan Persson has bought up stock amid speculation he will take the company private.

Mr Persson has denied he's planning a buyout, calling the rumours "baseless". The company's shares have risen 36 per cent since falling to their lowest levels since 2005 in March.

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H&M has been struggling to work its way through a backlog of unsold goods and a challenge from online retailers.

"We believe in the company, and our assessment is that it is a good long-term financial investment," Anders Bylund, a spokesman for Interogo, said in an emailed response to questions.

"We do not exclude that there may be more investments in listed companies."

The Interogo Foundation, which owns the Switzerland-based investment arm, was created in the 1980s to "secure the independence and longevity of the Ikea concept", according to the company's website.

Interogo bought the shares through a Swedish subsidiary called IH Capital HC1 AB, which H&M listed on its website as its 16th-largest shareholder as at Sept 28. Interogo has confirmed that it didn't previously own any shares.

H&M shares were up 0.2 per cent to 164.24 kronor at 10:40 am Thursday in Stockholm trading. BLOOMBERG