Sports Direct is on right track to hit its targets

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The Independent Online

Sports Direct is on track to hit its "super-stretch" profit targets this year, passing the first hurdle that could see it hand founder Mike Ashley a bundle of shares worth £17m.

The sportswear market leader said it was now "certain" of hitting its higher underlying profits target of £225m for the year to 29 April after posting a surge in third-quarter sales.

Sports Direct said it was also reviewing its dividend policy following a hiatus stretching back to December 2008. Its growth is in stark contrast to the troubles at its loss-making rival JJB Sports.

Sports Direct posted a 9.1 per cent surge in group sales to £453.8m for the 13 weeks to 22 January. retail sales rose by 10.2 per cent to £408.6m over the quarter.

Its chief executive, Dave Forsey, said: "Underlying performance in the period, particularly since December, has outperformed management's expectations."

Under the "super-stretch" deal, if the retailer hits four years of profit targets to April 2015, it will hand Mr Ashley, its executive deputy chairman who also owns Newcastle United, six million shares, worth £17m at the current share price, in 2018.

The shares rose by 15.2p to 278p yesterday, edging closer to its 2007 float price of 300p.