UPDATE 1-Sports Direct profit up, says will hit year target

Thu Feb 21, 2013 2:20am EST

LONDON Feb 21 (Reuters) - Britain's biggest sporting goods retailer Sports Direct posted a 23 percent profit rise in its Christmas quarter and said it was certain of hitting its full-year target.

The group, which owns Sports Direct.com and Lillywhites stores as well as brands like Slazenger and Dunlop, said on Thursday that gross profit for the 13 weeks to Jan. 27, its fiscal third quarter, grew 22.7 percent to 244.8 million pounds ($374.6 million).

Total sales in the period rose 21.1 percent to 589.5 million pounds.

While many British retailers have struggled as consumers grapple with rising prices and muted wage growth, heavy discounter Sports Direct has coped well, benefiting from the woes of its rivals, a growing internet presence, highly motivated staff due to a lucrative bonus scheme and European expansion.

The group is targeting underlying EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) for 2013 of 270 million pounds, before a charge for bonus share schemes.

Last December the firm said it wanted to grant its billionaire founder Mike Ashley 10 million shares if performance targets were met. The group said it would put the revised payout proposal to shareholders in early 2013, but made no reference to it on Thursday.

Shares in Sports Direct closed at 416 pence on Wednesday, up 43 percent on a year ago, valuing the firm at around 2.49 billion pounds.