Sports Direct takes option on Debenhams stake

A Sports Direct shopfront Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Sports Direct is now one of the largest listed companies in the UK

Sports Direct, the retailer run by billionaire Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley, has sold its 4.6% stake in Debenhams just days after buying it.

At the same time it has taken out an option to buy the department store group's shares in a move that could see it take a stake of 6.6%.

The company said its maximum exposure was £64m under the terms of the deal.

Sports Direct has 409 UK stores and owns several brands including Dunlop, Slazenger, and Karrimor.

On Monday, Sports Direct said it had spent £46m on buying its stake in Debenhams, saying it would allow the companies "to explore options at an operational level".

In its latest move, the Sports Direct reiterated this wish, saying the firm was "looking forward to meeting with Debenhams' senior management team in the near future".

"Sports Direct reiterates its intention to be a supportive stakeholder and create value in the interests of both Sports Direct's and Debenhams' shareholders," it said.

Sports Direct was taken public by Mr Ashley in February 2007 and saw its share price rise by 86% in 2013, propelling it into the FTSE 100 with a market capitalisation of £4.4bn.

Debenhams, which has 240 stores in 28 countries, warned on the last day of 2013 that it expected pre-tax profits for the six months to April 2014 to be £85m, down from £115m in the same period the previous year.

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