Sports Direct profits up 15% to £240m

Mike Ashley Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley is also the owner of Newcastle United

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Sportswear retailer Sports Direct has reported a "record" 15% rise in annual pre-tax profits to £239.5m for the year to 17 April 2014.

It said total group sales also rose 23.8% to £2.7bn, from £2.1bn a year earlier.

Like-for-like sales - which strip out sales at stores open for less than a year - were 10.5% higher.

The results come a day after founder Mike Ashley withdrew from the company's latest bonus scheme.

Dave Forsey, chief executive of Sports Direct, said: "We have delivered another record year of out-performance, especially within our Sports Retail division.

"This success is underpinned by our core strategy, offering our customers a wide range of products which represent exceptional quality and unbeatable value.

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

Sports Direct said online sales rose 26.8% and now represent 17.1% of total sales. That compared with 15% a year ago.

The retailer has around 400 UK stores, as well as operations in 19 countries in Europe.

Expansion

It said its European expansion plans in Austria - where it recently bought retailers Eybl and Sports Experts - and the Baltic region - where it took over the Sportland International Group - remained on course.

On Monday, Sports Direct also announced ambitious plans to expand into Australia and New Zealand.

It will open three flagship stores in Australia and one in New Zealand later this year and has also entered into an online joint venture with a MySale unit, OzSale.com.au.

That deal will will give the sports retailer access to the online group's 12 million members, it said on Monday.

Bonus scheme

Last month, Sports Direct bought a 4.8% stake in MySale worth around £15m, just two days after the online business floated on the London Stock Exchange, raising £40m to expand its operations.

On Wednesday, Mr Ashley, who also owns Newcastle United Football Club, said he had withdrawn from his participation in a new £200m employee bonus scheme, agreed earlier this month by shareholders.

The surprise about-turn came after executives made strenuous efforts recently to persuade shareholders to approve the deal.

Mr Ashley said he would not approach shareholders again regarding his remuneration until 2019.

Up to 3,000 other employees will still share in the equity bonus scheme.

The company had refused to say how the shares scheme would be allocated to Mr Ashley, who does not take a salary from the firm in which he has a majority shareholding.

Keith Hellawell, non-executive chairman of Sports Direct, blamed "recent unhelpful speculation" surrounding Mr Ashley's potential share allocation under the bonus scheme for his decision to withdraw from it.

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