LONDON, July 18 Britain's biggest sporting goods
retailer Sports Direct is to hand shares worth almost
130 million pounds ($197 million) in total to 2,000 of its
staff, after unveiling another strong rise in annual profit.
Sports Direct has grown rapidly in recent years to dominate
the sports market on Britain's high street, benefiting from the
demise of rivals like JJB Sports during the economic downturn, a
growing internet presence, expansion in the UK and Europe, and
staff motivated by a lucrative bonus scheme.
The company, controlled by billionaire Newcastle United
soccer club owner Mike Ashley, on Thursday said underlying
pretax profit was 208.1 million pounds ($316 million) in the 52
weeks to April 28, up 40 percent on a year ago.
The group, which owns Sports World and Lillywhites stores as
well as brands like Slazenger and Dunlop, said it would in
August award shares to some 2,000 of its 24,000 staff, including
full-time shop assistants, after the firm hit financial targets.
Under the bonus scheme started in 2009, the average employee
earning 20,000 pounds who has been with the firm at least five
years will receive 12,000 Sports Direct shares worth around
72,000 pounds at the current share price. The company said staff
were on track for another payout in 2015 through a second
First quarter trading had started ahead of management
expectations, the firm said, adding that it had decided not to
put a shares payout proposal for its owner Ashley to
shareholders at its upcoming AGM, and would instead review its
various options for remunerating him.
The proposal would have seen Ashley handed 10 million shares
to vest in 2018 if performance targets were met.
Shares in Sports Direct closed at 600.5 pence on Wednesday,
up 47 percent on six months ago, valuing the firm at around 3.6