Belfast Telegraph

Sports Direct ups its stake in Debenhams again

Mike Ashley's Sports Direct has again upped its stake in department store chain Debenhams.

A stock exchange announcement on Monday showed that Sports Direct has raised its interest in Debenhams from 16.09% to 17.08%, the latest in a series of increases.

Mr Ashley's intentions in upping his firm's holding have been the subject of speculation, although few expect a takeover offer to be launched.

Sports Direct has in the past said that it simply wants to be a "supportive stakeholder" in Debenhams, and to create value in the interests of both the firms' shareholders.

The retailer began building its stake in Debenhams in 2014 and last made a raid on its shares in March.

The retailer has built its position through a combination of share options and contracts for differences.

The Newcastle United owner has a history of building up positions in rival retailers, having previously bought stakes in JD Sports and privately-owned House of Fraser.

Sports Direct also snapped up an 11% stake in French Connection earlier this year, raising fresh questions over the chain's future.

Mr Ashley, who came under fire from MPs over ''Victorian'' working conditions at the firm's warehouse in Shirebrook, Derbyshire, last year, has been a busy man recently.

The tycoon has announced the appointment of Sports Direct's first employees' representative, who will attend board meetings following the uproar over working conditions, as well as becoming embroiled in a war of words with shareholder advisory group PIRC over executive pay.

Last week Sports Direct's sole female board member Claire Jenkins quit the firm, with reports suggesting she was frustrated over her lack of influence on the direction of the retailer.

Weekly Business Digest Newsletter

This week's business news headlines, directly to your inbox every Tuesday.