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Sports World vows to retain cut-price stance after float

Sports World owner Mike Ashley has promised to grow the group's discount operation to 600 stores in the UK and maintain its aggressive pricing as it expands overseas, following its float later this month.

Ashley said there was potential to double the number of UK stores, to be rebranded Sports Direct, from about 300 at present, and that its Original Shoe Co chain could grow from 50 to 250 shops. He said Original Shoe Co would continue as a full-price business.

He added: "Sports Direct and Original Shoe Co have different propositions, but both offer value for money."

David Forsey, who has been promoted from managing director to chief executive, said the international strategy would mirror that in the UK.

JJB Sports finance director David Greenwood told Drapers he doubted there were enough suitable locations for its rival to open so many stores. "But it affects us if it opens nearby," he said.

JD Sports chairman Peter Cowgill added that the plan was ambitious, especially within the already saturated fashion sector.

One industry observer said the track record of firms that float with a single main shareholder or founder is not great, citing Matalan and French Connection as examples.

Former Blacks chairman and chief executive Simon Bentley has been appointed as one of three non-executive directors.

The indicative ordinary share price range will be 250p to 310p, giving a value of between £1.8 billion and £2.23bn. The price is in line with City predictions but Seymour Pierce analyst Richard Ratner said: "It's a little high, but Ashley has a great reputation."

Ashley will take the role of executive deputy chairman and keep a 60% stake in the group after it floats on February 27.

Sports World also owns Lillywhites and labels including Kangol, Donnay and No Fear.

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