November 10, 2017 / 2:39 PM / a year ago

Belgian activist investor hikes Burberry stake as overhaul starts

PARIS, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Belgian billionaire Albert Frere has raised his stake in Burberry from 4 to 6 percent, the British trench coat maker said on Friday, a day after it unveiled a plan to go further upmarket that sent its shares tumbling on cost concerns.

Frere - who along with other activist investors spurred a turnaround at German sportswear maker Adidas after taking stakes in 2015 - first disclosed a 3 percent stake in Burberry in February.

The holding is owned by a subsidiary of Frere's Groupe Bruxelles Lambert (GBL), which also has investments in French drinks company Pernod Ricard and energy firm Total.

Burberry's sales growth has lagged that of peers in the luxury and fashion world as a rebound in demand from Chinese consumers helps the industry recover from a few lean years.

Under new CEO Marco Gobbetti, the 161-year-old outerwear maker wants to become a top-end luxury player and is banking on a creative overhaul as it prepares to part ways with long-time designer Christopher Bailey.

Burberry shares fell sharply on Thursday as investors baulked at the costs of Gobbetti's plan and the longer-than-expected turnaround time he outlined. Growth in revenue and operating profit will take until 2021, he said.

The stock was down another 2.3 percent at 1406GMT on Friday.

Analysts at Berenberg said Frere's greater investment was positive.

"The news should reinstate some confidence amongst investors, confirming our view that despite the short-term downside risks to earnings, the company is on the right path to long-term success," the analysts said in a note. (Reporting by Sarah White; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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