Hunter nets £52m from JJB Sports sale

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The Independent Online

Tom Hunter, the Scottish retail entrepreneur, appeared to net £52m from the sale of 13 million shares in JJB Sports, the UK's largest sports retailer, yesterday though UBS Warburg described the deal as a "hedging transaction".

UBS said it had placed the stock at 400p per share. It said the placing was a transaction between UBS Private Equity and West Coast Capital, of which Mr Hunter is a director. "It's not a sale, it's a hedge," a UBS spokesman said.

Mr Hunter had a 6.7 per cent stake in JJB after selling his Sports Division retail business to JJB in 1998. He has now sold or "hedged" 80 per cent of that stake, utilising a practice used by directors of Matalan, the discount retailer, last year.

The share placing overshadowed better than expected half-year results from JJB, with pre-tax profits in the six months to 31 July up 65 per cent to £47.2m. JJB shares closed down 1.5p at 418.5p.

The group appears to have shrugged off the impact of the terrorist attacks on the United States with like-for-like sales up by 8 per cent in the first nine weeks of the group's second half. Dave Whelan, chairman, said: "The recent tragic events in the USA may have an impact on consumer confidence which could affect retail demand generally; however, I am confident that our product ranges together with our superstore opening programme will maintain JJB's strong position."

The company said it had heard no more from the Office of Fair Trading after its offices in Wigan were raided a month ago as part of an investigation into price fixing of replica football kits. JJB denies any involvement in price fixing.

The group is looking to re-introduce the Olympus brand into its stores as a low-priced, own-label range. Olympus Sports was part of the old Sears empire before it was acquired by the entrepreneur Philip Green.

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