SPORTS DIRECT ACQUIRES STAKES IN ADIDAS AND AMER GROUP

Sports Direct International acquired stakes of 0.7 percent in Adidas last month and increased its holdings in Amer Sports Corp. to 10.64 percent on July 31. In reporting its results for the last financial year last July 24, Sports Direct said it intended to acquire “strategic” stakes in other businesses. Besides the holdings it has built in Adidas and Amer Group, it recently bought a 60 percent of Field & Trek (see previous issue). It already holds just short of 30 percent of another UK outdoor retailer, Blacks Leisure Group.

The British sporting goods company’s investment in Adidas, which cost €71.74 million, comes just two months after Mike Ashley cashed out of his personal stake in the Big a with a €43 million gain. Ashley had used some of the proceeds of his £929 million (€1,376.3m-$1,895.2m) sale of a 43 percent stake in Sports Direct to take an interest of 3.14 percent in Adidas. Eight weeks later, after a run-up in the Adidas share price and sharp criticism from the outside investors in the newly public Sports Direct, he sold the interest.

Sports Direct has bought 1.61 million Adidas shares at an average price of €44.58. Its decision to invest in Adidas was “consistent with Sports Direct’s policy of pursuing strategic investment opportunities where it believes that an investment will provide the opportunity to gain strategic or commercial advantage with the objective of creating shareholder value,” the company said.

Adidas is an important supplier to Sports Direct, though the relationship has seen some strains. Rival retailers have been pressuring the major brands to curtail the large discounts they gave to Sports Direct, and that led to a long price war and damaged the profitability of the sector. Adidas and Nike have responded by limiting the range of models made available to Sports Direct or putting restrictions on the display of new merchandise in its crowded stores.

Meanwhile, a new round in Sports Direct’s battle for the ownership of Everlast has finished with the announcement by the American boxing company of a settlement with its rival bidder, Hidary, which has agreed to withdraw a lawsuit that would have forced it to honor a previous merger deal with the investment company. The battle is still open as there is no agreement between Hidary and Everlast that would prevent the investment firm from make a “non-coercive” tender offer for its shares.