Only three months after offloading a stake in Finnish equipment company Amer Sports, he’s bought half of it back again – and made a tidy profit in the process. Sports Direct sold its original 12.1% stake for €167m back in November, equivalent to about €19 per share. Now it’s bought back a 4.96% stake for €48m, or about €13 per share. So in effect, he’s paying over 30% less this time round – which sounds to us like a pretty shrewd bit of trading.
Just to confuse matters further, Ashley seemed to rule out another move for Amer, the group behind Salomon skis and Wilson tennis rackets, at Sports Direct’s half-year results last month. He told analysts that he thought Amer was still under-valued and was keen to have another pop at some stage, but suggested another acquisition was unlikely to happen any time soon. ‘I still believe in Amer, they have global brands and a huge potential to do more, but I can't keep all plates spinning all the time,’ he told the Times. Clearly he’s been working on his technique.
In a highly uninformative statement today, Sports Direct said only that Amer ‘fits its criteria for strategic investments’ – which in this case presumably means that it’s become so cheap that it looked like a bargain. The company’s lost a third of its value so far this year and announced plans to cut 400 jobs, after its ski sales plummeted. Clearly this plunging share price has prompted Ashley into action.
Of course, this latest move is unlikely to endear him any further to the City, which has already criticised his ‘scatter-gun’ stake-building. But with a profit of about €20m nestling in his back pocket, everyone’s favourite sportswear entrepreneur is unlikely to be bothered. Let’s just hope he doesn’t waste it all on an over-priced English footballer.