Sales and profits have risen at Mike Ashley’s retail empire Sports Direct, despite England’s disappointing performance at the World Cup.
The Newcastle United owner’s sportswear firm grew underlying profit before tax up 9.8% to £160.6m in the 26 weeks to October 26 2014, while revenues also rose by 6.5% to £1.43bn.
Group underlying EBITDA increased by 10.8% to £203.1m and reported earnings per share increased by 4.1% to 19.4p.
Net debt, meanwhile, decreased to £186.5m from £212m.
Keith Hellawell, non-executive chairman, told shareholders how the group continued its expansion in Europe during the period, opening a further eight stores.
He said: “The re-branding of stores in Austria to the Sportsdirect.com fascia continues and we opened our first Sportsdirect.com store in the Baltics.”
In the first half of the year the group increased its investment in Debenhams with the purchase of an additional strategic stake in the business.
Mr Hellawell said: “We are currently trialling four concessions within Debenhams stores. The group has also acquired interests in Tesco and the online retailer MySale during the period.”
As previously reported in The Journal, the group has also started work on building new cut price gyms.
Mr Hellawell said Sportsdirect Fitness.com has now officially been established, following the acquisition of 18 former LA Fitness gyms.
He said: “We have commenced building work on a new 20,000sqft dry gym and an adjoining 40,000sqft retail space in Aintree which will be fully open by the end of 2014 and another two similar units in St Helens and Keighley are expected to be operational in early 2015.”
Dave Forsey, chief executive of Sports Direct International plc welcomed the results.
He said: “The results for the six months were solid considering the adverse impact on performance during the period of England’s early departure from the FIFA World Cup in Brazil and the unseasonably mild weather during Autumn reducing footfall.
“However, the continued growth in group revenues and EBITDA is testament to the hard work of our colleagues and our continued focus on providing customers with exceptional quality and unbeatable value.
“We are delighted that their contribution will again be recognised under the 2011 Employee Bonus Share Scheme – 25% of which is expected to vest with eligible employees in September 2015.
“Trading since the period end has been in line with management expectations and while we retain the ability to invest in margin, inventory and group marketing to deliver long-term sustainable growth, we remain confident of achieving at least our full year internal underlying EBITDA target of £360m, before the charge for the Employee Bonus Share Schemes.”