Sports Direct paid €1m dividend as it received €2.87m in wage supports

Accounts cover first year of pandemic for Irish arm of UK billionaire Mike Ashley’s stores

The Irish arm of UK billionaire Mike Ashley’s Sports Direct and Brand Max stores last year paid out an interim dividend of €1 million as it received almost three times that in Government Covid-19 wage subsidy supports.

New accounts show that Mr Ashley's Heatons Unlimited Company paid out an interim dividend of €1.02 million in the 12 months to the end of April 25th last. It paid a dividend of €650,623 the previous year.

The accounts, which cover the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic, show that the company received €2.87 million in Irish Government Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme (EWSS) grants.

The business – which has its Irish HQ at Heaton House in the IDA Business Park in Whitestown, Tallaght – last year recorded pre-tax losses of €28.57 million due to a lease provision of €33 million.

It made a pre-tax profit of €17.69 million in 2020.

The directors said that the onerous lease provision was made due to the challenging conditions experienced during the year and envisaged to continue into the future.

Revenues declined

The lease provision was made as revenues declined by €43.79 million, or 29 per cent, from €150.58 million to €106.78 million.

The pre-tax loss last year also takes account of non-cash depreciation costs of €16.65 million and foreign exchange losses of €2.38 million.

The costs were offset by interest received of €2.06 million and other operating income of €4.43 million which included the EWSS Covid payments.

The company’s operating lease costs last year totalled €10.22 million which were down only marginally on the €10.48 million lease costs in fiscal 2020.

Numbers employed last year reduced from 1,208 to 1,084 as staff costs reduced from €28.58 million to €20 million.

Directors’ emoluments last year totalled €443,640.

At the end of April 25th last, Heatons Unlimited had shareholder funds of €17.13 million that included accumulated profits of €16.4 million. The company’s cash funds stood at €3.54 million.

Mike Ashley is best known outside the business world through his involvement with English Premier League team Newcastle United and last October he sold the club for £305 million to a Saudi-led group.

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan

Gordon Deegan is a contributor to The Irish Times