Belfast Telegraph

Sports Direct empire gets foothold in Europe after striking EAG deal

JOHN-paul ford rojas

Mike Ashley's sportswear empire is expanding on two fronts in Europe after snapping up controlling stakes in a pair of retailers on the continent.

Sports Direct International, which is controlled by Newcastle United owner Mr Ashley, has struck a €40.5m (£35m) deal to grab a 51% share of Austria's EAG, while paying an undisclosed sum for Sportland International Group (SIG), the largest sporting goods retailer in the Baltic region.

It is the latest stage of international expansion by Sports Direct, which already has retail interests in Belgium, France, Holland, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Cyprus and Ireland.

Sports Direct has also been strengthening its grip on the market in the UK with sales soaring in the wake of rival JJB's collapse.

Its deal to buy EAG includes €10.5m (£9m) for current shareholders plus €30m (£25.7m) to pay off debts. The family-owned company, which has a history dating back 80 years, operates 30 Eybl stores and 28 Sports Expert outlets. Three of the 58 stores are in Germany, the bulk in Austria.

EAG made net losses of €20.6m (£17.6m) in the year ending August 2012. The deal is expected to complete by the end of July.

SIG, founded in 1995, has around 80 stores and is the leading sports goods retailer in the Baltic, operating Sportland, Timberland, O'Neill and Nike chains. That deal is expected to be completed by the end of June.

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