Sports Direct expands in Europe

Sports DirectMike Ashley's sportswear empire is expanding on two fronts in Europe after snapping up controlling stakes in a pair of retailers on the continent.

Sports Direct International, which is controlled by Newcastle United owner Mr Ashley, has struck a 40.5 million euro (£35 million) deal to grab a 51% share of Austria's EAG while paying an undisclosed sum for Sportland International Group (SIG), the largest sporting goods retailer in the Baltic region.

It is the latest stage of international expansion by Sports Direct, which already has retail interests in Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Cyprus and Irish Republic.

Sports Direct has also been strengthening its grip on the market in UK with sales soaring in the wake of rival JJB's collapse.
Its deal to buy EAG includes 10.5 million euros (£9 million) for current shareholders plus 30 million euros (£25.7 million) to pay off debts.

The family-owned company, which has a history dating back 80 years, operates 30 Eybl stores and 28 Sports Expert outlets.

Three of the 58 stores are in Germany and the bulk in Austria.

EAG made net losses of 20.6 million euros (£17.6 million) in the year ending August 2012. The deal is expected to complete by the end of July.

SIG, founded in 1995, has around 80 stores and is the leading sports good retailer in the Baltic, operating Sportland, Timberland, O'Neill and Nike chains in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The deal is expected to be completed by the end of June.