René Benko, the Austrian real estate magnate who controls the Signa Sports Group, is reportedly envisaging a spin-off of the sports retail group, to get it listed on the stock exchange.

The Signa Sports Group was targeting sales of €650 million in 2017 with 45 stores operating in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, along with 58 online stores in 17 countries. It consists of Karstadt Sports along with a smattering of online retailers in which Signa has bought majority stakes, such as Outfitter, Tennis Point, Probikeship and Internetstores, the company behind Addnature, Campz and other outdoor and bike-related online retailers.

It has now added Stylefile, an online retailer specialized in sneakers and streetwear, which should help Signa to move further into the athleisure market. The company was established in 2000 by Markus Christl and Jörn Stiller. In 2014 they integrated Big Tree, an online outdoor retailer, which is part of the acquisition by Signa. The announcement today said that Stylefile's turnover reached about €50 million in 2016.

Several Austrian and German newspapers picked up a report from Bloomberg that Benko is envisaging an initial public offering (IPO) that may take place as early as the second half of 2018. It was estimated that the potential stock market value of Signa's sports retailing business could reach €1.2 billion.

The Signa Sports Group is part of the Signal Retail group, which is itself an arm of the Signa Holding. The company is reportedly recruiting advisers for this transaction, but it declined to comment.

The reports about the potential IPO plans came after Hudson's Bay Company (HBC), the Canadian owner of Kaufhof department stores, turned down a takeover offer issued by Signa late last year. HBC said that its board unanimously rejected the unsolicited proposal to acquire its Germany business and related real estate assets, adding that Signa Holding had withdrawn its offer.

Earlier this year Signa sealed a partnership with Intersport Deutschland, under which Karstadt Sports will purchase products through the leading German buying group. The two companies said that the agreement should be gradually widened to other parts of the Signa Sports Group. Both parties said that the deal would consolidate Intersport's leading position in the German market, while reinforcing Signa's platform for growth in the German and European omni-channel sports business.