September 11, 2013 / 6:57 AM / 4 years ago

Sports Direct posts sales rise as FTSE 100 debut nears

LONDON (Reuters) - Sports Direct (SPD.L), Britain's biggest sporting goods retailer, posted an 18.2 percent rise in first-quarter sales, sustaining a strong performance that is set to lift it into the UK's leading share index.

The company, controlled by billionaire Newcastle United football club owner Mike Ashley, said trading in the 13 weeks to July 28 had been ahead of its expectations, with group sales reaching 613.3 million pounds versus 519 million a year earlier.

Gross profit increased 23.2 percent to 260.1 million pounds, while quarterly retail sales rose 14.5 percent. Sales in its premium lifestyle unit, which includes USC, jumped 98.3 percent.

The company is set to be promoted to the FTSE 100 .FTSE share index on Wednesday after its share price jumped to all-time highs following a 40 percent surge in profit in July.

Sports Direct, which owns Sports Direct.com and Lillywhites stores as well as brands including Slazenger, Dunlop and Lonsdale, has grown rapidly in Britain during the downturn, thanks partly to the demise of rivals such as JJB Sports, as well as growing online sales and staff motivated by a lucrative bonus scheme.

The firm, which has around 400 UK stores, has set its sights on a greater presence across Europe where it operates in 19 countries and expects to move into two or three new territories this financial year.

The firm said it would continue to target underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 310 million pounds for 2013-14, before a charge for bonus share schemes, as it focuses on integrating recent acquisitions in the UK, Austria and the Baltic region.

Shares in Sports Direct have doubled since its stock market listing in February 2007 and closed on Tuesday at 715.5 pence, valuing the business at almost 4.3 billion pounds.

Editing by Jason Neely and David Holmes

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