Sports Direct hikes profits outlook

Plenty to celebrate for Newcastle Utd and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley
Plenty to celebrate for Newcastle Utd and Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley

Sports Direct International cheered staff and investors with a profits upgrade as the group held its annual conference for employees and suppliers at Newcastle United’s St James’ Park stadium.

The sportswear retailer - controlled by Newcastle’s owner Mike Ashley - said pre-tax profits were running ahead of market expectations, currently at £295 million.

It also confirmed underlying earnings were in line with forecasts for £380m, which will trigger a multi-million pound share payout in September under the staff bonus scheme.

This year’s annual underlying earnings target of £300m was the last hurdle for the payout under the 2011 employee share bonus scheme.

With all targets secured, the scheme will pay out five million shares this September and a further 19 million shares in 2017, worth more than £34m and £130m respectively at today’s prices to eligible staff.

Sports Direct is holding its annual conference at St James’ Park after Newcastle narrowly avoided relegation on Sunday by beating West Ham 2-0.

The group is laying on food, drink and entertainment for around 900 staff and suppliers at the all-day yearly conference, which is expected to last until late into the evening.

It is thought staff will get the chance to play football on the pitch.