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Ashley could save Republic

Monday 18 February 2013 6:00

Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley is reportedly one of two retail moguls in the running to acquire collapsed fashion chain Republic.

Ashley, majority owner of Sports Direct, and Blue Inc, whose chairman is former Marks & Spencer boss Sir Stuart Rose, are reported to be considering acquiring Republic.

Last week 150 head office staff from Republic were sent home by administrators Ernst & Young prompting speculation that the chain could only be sold to a trade buyer or broken up.

Ashley is understood to be keen to find a chain that would suit his growing stable of brands, which include Firetrap This is Money reports.

Blue Inc, meanwhile, is keen to add to its 60-strong store portfolio.

This week Ashley’s sportswear empire Sports Direct International is expected to show how the collapse of rival JJB benefitted it in recent months.

Trading is expected to be strong as sales are boosted by stock bought by the group when it snapped up 20 of JJB’s shops from administrators.

Richard Chamberlain, analyst at Bank of America, said trading in shops and online will also be strong when the announcement is made on Thursday.

The City expects the group to be on-track for full year pre-tax profits of £207m - up from £154m the previous year.

At its half year, Sports Direct jumped to a record profit after enjoying a “significant” sales boost from the London Olympics and Paralympics.

Half-year revenues were up 22.5 per cent to just over £1bn amid strong growth in its 398 UK shops and branded sportswear division.

But Mr Chamberlain warned the collapse of JJB in the UK has left open the possibility of a new chain emerging to fill the void in mass market performance sportswear.

He said: “However, we think any such chain would most likely be at a disadvantage to Sports Direct in terms of range of merchandise and brand scale.”