Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ashley to Unveil Rising Profit as Rival Bows out; UPDATES

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Ashley to Unveil Rising Profit as Rival Bows out; UPDATES

Article excerpt

Byline: Jamie Grierson

SPORTS Direct and the owner of coffee chain Costa will prove there is money to made in retail next week when they provide updates to the City.

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley's Sports Direct International will unveil higher half-year profits on Thursday as it takes advantage of the demise of rival JJB Sports and benefits from Olympic fever.

The group, which has nearly 400 stores and owns brands including Slazenger, Donnay and Karrimor, is expected by brokers Numis to report a 20% rise in underlying earnings to PS169m.

Chief executive Dave Forsey said the period to September was buoyed by demand for products linked to the London Olympics and an "excellent" back-to-school period, and said in October trading had been equally strong since then.

The improvement by Sports Direct, which is majority owned by Ashley, came in a period when rival JJB Sports conceded defeat in its battle for survival.

Sports Direct bought 20 stores from JJB's administrators but this meant the closure of another 133 sites with the loss of around 2,200 jobs.

Numis analyst Andrew Wade said: "As well as the benefit from JJB's continued struggles, which may have been reduced through the quarter due to clearance activity, management pointed to benefits from the Olympics and a strong back-to-school period."

The City will be keen to hear on updates on potential acquisitions following reports that Ashley is hunting down a stake in department store chain House of Fraser.

The founder of Sports Direct International is understood to have met unnamed shareholders to discuss buying out investors and creating a strategic partnership.

Sports acquired an 80% shareholding in retail chains USC and Cruise for PS7m last year and bought a 51% stake in premium clothing brand Flannels in the summer.

Leisure group Whitbread will reveal further strong growth in sales at its coffee business Costa tomorrow amid ongoing speculation a spin-off will be on the cards.

Costa, which has nearly 1,400 outlets in the UK, is forecast by analysts at Barclays Equity Research to reveal like-for-like sales growth in its third quarter of 6%. …

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