JJB falls further amid sportswear worries

SHARES in JJB Sports, the sports retailer, fell another 46p to 536p yesterday as speculation continued that the sportswear market is suffering from weak sales. The shares have now lost 35 per cent of their value since their 822.5p peak just five weeks ago.

Shares in rivals were also weak. Blacks Leisure lost 10p to 382.5p while John David Sports gave up a further 2.5p to 111.5p. Much of the volume in JJB stock appeared to be small investors, possibly reacting to a "sell" recommendation in an investment magazine. This prompted Simon Cawkwell, the bear raider known in the market as Evil Knievel, to close a large short position in the stock.

He said yesterday that he first started short-selling (selling stock he does not yet own and buying it back later at a lower price) when the JJB share price was around 750p in mid-March. Yesterday he bought back a line of stock at 560p which he had sold at 597p. "The market is clearly very nervous about margins in this industry but enough is enough," he said.

JJB reports full year results on 22 April with broker SBC Warburg expecting pounds 33.5m against pounds 20.7m the previous year. The company would not comment on its own trading ahead of its results. However it attributed the weakness in its share price to profit-taking due to investor nervousness about the retail sector after the Next profits warning.

Other factors, the company said, could include the statements allegedly made by Newcastle United directors that replica football shirts were over- priced and rumours that Sports Division, the sports superstore operator, might delay its flotation.

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