House of Fraser future hinges on rates reform, warns Ashley

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Sports Direct founder and chief executive Mike Ashley has warned that the future of his vast retail group’s bricks-and-mortar portfolio is dependent on the “broken and unworkable” business rates system being overhauled.

What a difference six months makes. Cut back to July and Sports Direct was scrambling to file its full-year results on the scheduled date – which had already been pushed back – having been upended by an eleventh-hour €674m tax bill from the Belgian authorities.

Then, when underlying EBITDA slid 6% to £287.8m, Ashley admitted he “regretted” buying beleaguered department store House of Fraser.

Today, the retailer’s interim results make for very different reading, with underlying group EBITDA rising 21.8% to £181.2m, or up 15.1% stripping out currency fluctuations and acquisitions.

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