United effort as sports group sees bumper results

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NEWCASTLE United owner Mike Ashley’s first step towards a potential £24m pay-out was secured after more bumper results at his Sports Direct business.

The group, which has 395 stores and brands including Slazenger, Donnay and Karrimor, posted underlying earnings of £240.5m in the year to April 29, well ahead of the £225m needed under the bonus scheme.

Mr Ashley, the company’s executive deputy chairman, is on course to receive eight million shares in 2018 but the company must deliver earnings of £270m in this financial year, rising to £340m by 2015.

The company’s bonus scheme has also been motivating rank-and-file staff, with 2,000 workers due for a £15,000 windfall from a previous scheme next month.

A new arrangement involving 3,000 workers has also passed its first earnings hurdle, fuelling hopes for 2,500 shares in 2015 and 7,500 shares two years later

The group said current trading had been in-line with expectations and it was “very excited” by the Olympics.

Chief executive Dave Forsey said: “In spite of the low expectations surrounding England’s participation in Euro 2012 and the unseasonal weather our core divisions are performing well.”

With consumers’ disposable incomes being squeezed by rising prices, muted wages growth and Government austerity measures many British retailers are still struggling.

Sports Direct has, however, coped well in the economic downturn, benefiting from its value offer, a growing internet presence, a motivated staff due to the lucrative bonus scheme, European expansion and the problems of UK rivals JJB Sports and Blacks Leisure.

Shares in the group, over two thirds of which are owned by Mr Ashley, have risen 39 percent in 2012.

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