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Sports Direct To Meet Profit Target as Fourth-Quarter Sales Slow

Sports Direct International Plc, the U.K.’s largest sporting-goods retailer, said it’s “certain” it will meet its annual earnings target after reporting that sales growth slowed in the fourth quarter.

Sports retail sales rose 13.6 percent in the nine weeks ended March 31, the Mansfield, England-based retailer said today in a statement. That compares to the prior quarter’s 21.2 percent growth. The retailer repeated it would report annual underlying earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of 270 million pounds ($411 million), before a charge for a bonus share plan.

The chain of about 400 stores, which bought 114 Republic fashion stores in February, has benefitted from the demise of rival JJB Sports Plc alongside a focus on more upmarket brands. Online sales now account for about 15 percent of all sports retail sales, the company said.

“The strength of this performance during the nine-week period continues to demonstrate the resilience of our business model, especially in the U.K.,” Chief Executive Officer Dave Forsey said in the statement.

The shares rose 1.5 percent to 446.6 pence in London trading yesterday. The stock has gained 15.5 percent this year.

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