Sports Direct staff await annual results in anticipation of shares windfall

£180m bonus scheme at Mike Ashley's sports clothing company depends on the retailer growing underlying earnings

Sports Direct
Sports Direct

The latest milestone for Sports Direct staff hoping for another shares windfall will be reached next week when the company presents annual results.

Sports Direct, the retailer that is never far from the headlines, looks set to report another robust set of annual results on Thursday.

The City expects the sports chain, which has around 400 UK stores and operations in 19 countries in Europe, to post underlying earnings up 13.6% to £327.1m for the year to April 14, on the back of good organic growth, acquisitions and rising online sales.

This means that the firm’s existing 2011 bonus scheme, which includes 3,000 staff, will have cleared targets for three of the four years it is due to run for.

If full year underlying earnings hit £300m in 2015, shop floor staff will be awarded 34m shares in a payout worth an average £80,000 at today’s prices. A scheme last year awarded a typical worker shares worth £68,000.

Brokers at Jefferies said strong full-year results at Sports Direct, which owns Dunlop, Karrimor and Slazenger, will act as “a reminder of the group’s attractions” after an eventful few months.

A contentious bonus scheme for founder, Mike Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United, was voted through earlier this month even though it was rebuffed by major shareholding bodies such as Association of British Insurers.

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire Mike Ashley
Mike Ashley

The plan will grant 25m shares worth around £180m to Mr Ashley and 3,000 other employees if profits rise sharply over four years.

Under this Sports Direct new bonus scheme underlying earnings will have to hit £480m in 2016, £570m in 2017, £650m in 2018 and £750m in 2019.

Some shareholders are reported to be planning to vote against chairman Keith Hellawell, remuneration committee chairman Dave Singleton and other directors at the annual meeting in September because they feel the board demonstrated weak leadership over this matter, which has dragged on for two years.

Ashley is the founder of the business and still holds around 58% of the retailer.

The group also took the market by surprise last month when it acquired a 4.8% stake, worth around £15m, in newly listed discount fashion website MySale, which also counts Top Shop owner Sir Philip Green as an investor.

Finally, the group in the same month had to announce to the City that it had no plans to buy rival shoe retailer Office, branding the market talk as “unhelpful”.

During the year the group bought 51% of Austrian chain EAG and 60% of Sportland International Group in May, which operates in the Baltic region.

Brokers Jefferies said successful integration of these two businesses, which also have stores in Germany, “should provide a more meaningful international base to the group”.


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