Retail is in the process of initiating legal proceedings against Irish department store chain Heatons on competition grounds.

The division of Mike Ashley’s sporting goods retailer already owns a 50% stake in Heatons and it is understood the case revolves around the application of non-compete agreements that were allegedly agreed between Sports Direct and Heatons, The Irish Times reported.

The case is listed in March for a four-day hearing in the High Court and was filed in November 2012, suggesting Sports Direct has been interested in entering the market alone for more than a year.

Sports Direct said last week it is one of the parties attempting to acquire struggling 56-store Irish chain Elverys.