Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Sports Direct staff on track for £80k windfall

Founder: Mike Ashley

Another record-breaking profits haul from retail chain Sports Direct has kept its staff on track for a fresh bonus windfall.

The business, which is controlled by Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, reported a 16% jump in pre-tax profits to £239.5m for the year to April 27.

Underlying earnings were 15% higher to £331.1m, clearing another hurdle under a 2011 four-year share incentive bonus scheme for around 3,000 staff.

If the figure beats £300m in 2015, shop floor workers will be awarded 34 million shares in a payout worth an average £80,000 at yesterday's prices. A scheme last year awarded a typical worker shares worth £68,000.

Sports Direct said the performance of the group has gone from "strength to strength" since the bonus scheme was launched in September 2009.

It said yesterday: "The high level of rewards for eligible participants has also proven key to employee retention, and we credit a great deal of our continued success to our loyal workforce."

Despite the latest profits record, the company has not paid a dividend to shareholders as it wants to keep its options open for growth opportunities.

The group, which owns brands including Dunlop, Karrimor and Slazenger and has 418 UK stores – including 15 in Northern Ireland – racked up revenues of £2.7bn in the year, an increase of 23.8% on a year earlier.

The growth was primarily in its retail arm, which improved sales by 24% due to recent European acquisitions and strong trading in its existing business.

Overall trading since the year end has been in line with expectations, but with some stronger weeks offset by England's disappointing World Cup.

Analyst Greg Bromley said: "Sports Direct's growth shows no signs of abating, and its progress continues to be underpinned by solid levels of domestic growth, a widening brand and fashion presence, and a burgeoning store portfolio globally."

To achieve the payout the firm's earnings will have to hit £480m at the end of the 2016 financial year and rise to £750m by 2019.

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