Sports firm buys store shares

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THE sportswear empire of Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley has snapped up almost five per cent of shares in department store Debenhams.

Sports Direct International said the stock market purchase, worth around £46m, would allow the companies to consider ways to work together.

Debenhams, which issued a profits warning on New Year’s Eve after poor Christmas trading, said it was open-minded about the offer of exploring operational opportunities to improve its performance.

As well as 409 stores in the UK, including branches in Portsmouth and Havant, Sports Direct has a portfolio of 28 sports, fashion and lifestyle brands.

In a statement, Sports Direct said: ‘Sports Direct wishes to explore options at an operational level to work together with Debenhams to create value in the interests of both Sports Direct’s and Debenhams’ shareholders.’