Belfast Telegraph

Profits warning as shares tumble at Sports Direct

By Holly Williams

Under-pressure retailer Sports Direct - which is expanding in Northern Ireland - saw its shares tumble after founder Mike Ashley admitted the group was "in trouble" and would see profits fall this year.

The group's shares dropped 9% as Mr Ashley - deputy chairman of Sports Direct and the owner of Newcastle United - said he blamed MPs for creating negative publicity that has hit the group's performance.

In November last year, the Belfast Telegraph revealed Mr Ashley had bought Donegall Arcade in the heart of the city, and is set to open his first city centre branch of Sports Direct.

"We are in trouble, we are not trading very well. We can't make the same profit we made last year," he said.

"We are supposed to be taking the profits up, they are not supposed to be coming down, and the more the media frenzy feeds on it, the more it affects us."

The group, which runs around 400 stores across the UK, warned over profits in January after poor trading amid unusually warm weather over the Christmas period.

It said at the time it was no longer confident of meeting its underlying annual earnings target of £420m, and instead expected to turn in earnings of between £380m and £420m.

But independent retail analyst Nick Bubb said Mr Ashley's comments in the interview with The Times were a "startling admission".

"You might have expected an announcement this morning from Sports Direct revising down their profit guidance, but no such announcement has yet been forthcoming," he said.

Mr Ashley recently described the members of the Business, Innovation and Skills Committee as a "joke" after refusing to be questioned in Parliament about working conditions at the company.

MPs are discussing what action to take after Mr Ashley snubbed the summons to appear after criticism of the way his company treats workers at their warehouse.

Belfast Telegraph

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