Business

More House of Fraser stores to close, warns Mike Ashley

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Media captionSports Direct's financial director Chris Wootton says reforming business rates is "critical".

More House of Fraser department stores will be closing in 2020, Sports Direct boss Mike Ashley has warned.

Mr Ashley - whose business bought the department stores a year ago - said that while some stores were not paying rent they were still "unsustainable".

"We are doing as much as we can to realistically save as many jobs and stores as possible," said Mr Ashley.

Shares in Sports Direct ended the day 30% higher after it reported a rise pre-tax half year profits to £193.4m.

Sports Direct shareholders met on Monday and voted to change the retailer's corporate name to Frasers Group, as part of plans to move upmarket and away from sports.

Animal rights activists gathered outside the meeting, campaigning for House of Fraser to renew its ban on animal fur products.

Apart from the sportswear retailer and House of Fraser, the group also owns designer fashion brand Flannels, video game shop chain Game Digital, clothing retailer Jack Wills, cycle retailer Evans Cycles and online furniture shop Sofa.com.

Image caption Animal rights protesters campaigning outside the Sports Direct shareholder meeting

The move comes after House of Fraser customers discovered that the retailer was back to selling fur products in November, after pledging not to use it in 2017.

In its latest results, the retailer also reiterated that a €674m (£605m) bill from Belgium's tax authority would not lead to "material liabilities" and said it would find a resolution soon.

Mr Ashley used the results statement for the six months to 27 September to set out a number of reasons for the problems at House of Fraser, including "serious under-investment" in stores and appropriate support services.

Mr Ashley said: "We are continuing to review the longer-term portfolio and would expect the number of retained stores to continue to reduce in the next 12 months".

When House of Fraser went into administration, it had 59 stores, two warehouses and employed almost 16,000 staff. It has been reported that seven of those stores have been closed.

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