In an interview with The Times, the group’s chief financial officer Chris Wotton revealed the group was not formally in sale negotiations as it refused to sign a non-disclosure agreement that would prevent it speaking to Debenhams’ landlords for 18 months.
Debenhams employs 14,500 people in the UK and has 124 stores, but it is believed any sale will result in closures.
After Ashley’s £150m equity investment was wiped out in last year’s administration, Frasers and Debenhams have reportedly been in a dispute over any potential takeover.
Wootton said: “We feel, once again, we have been locked out of the process. Restricting a willing buyer from being involved in the sale will clearly result in a negative impact on the price of Debenhams.
“We are not going to buy a business without knowing how stores are performing.We have a track record of buying businesses and we are the most likely party to save jobs.”
Speaking to the Times, a Debenhams spokesman said: “All participants in the process have been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement, which is standard in a situation like this where commercially sensitive information may need to be shared.
‘‘While the process is at an early stage, and there is no guarantee the business will be sold, there is an encouraging level of interest.”