Belfast Telegraph

Sports Direct's profits plunge by a third to £145.3m

By Ravender Sembhy

Profits at Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, which is about to open a new store in Belfast city centre, fell by 33.5% to £145.3m in the first half of the year following the collapse in sterling.

The group, which has endured a long list of controversies over the past months, compounded its PR problems by failing to hedge against the fall in the value of the pound in the immediate aftermath of the EU referendum.

Sports Direct warned it expected "strategic challenges and currency headwinds" to continue to affect its financial performance in the medium term.

Mr Ashley said yesterday: "The last six months have been tough for our people and performance. Our UK sports retail business continues to be the engine of Sports Direct, but our results have been affected by the significant deterioration in exchange rates and our assessment of our risk relating to our stock levels and European stores' performance."

The company said revenue rose 4.2% to £1.6bn, but warned of a challenging environment that the firm expects to continue into the "foreseeable future". On a pre-tax basis, profits slumped 57% to £71.6m.

The results come after a string of controversies for the business, which has seen billionaire Mr Ashley hauled before MPs to be grilled over working conditions, the company host a tumultuous open day at its headquarters, and its chief executive Dave Forsey, quit, only to be subsequently replaced by Mr Ashley.

Mr Ashley sought to address the shambolic year through the trading statement, claiming again that he would like Sports Direct to become the "Selfridges of sports retail".

"What matters most to me is how tough the last year has been for the people who work at Sports Direct," he said.

"Our people have found themselves in the spotlight through no fault of their own, yet they remain loyal. It is for this reason that my immediate priority will be to protect these people.

The company is set to open a store in Belfast city centre's Donegall Arcade after buying the premises last year.

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