Irish conglomerate has ?260m war chest
Irish conglomerate Stafford Group created a Eu260 million (£175.5 million) war chest to spend on buying sports retailers across Europe.

Stafford - a family-run business that has traditionally made its money from shipping and oil - bought Irish chain Lifestyle Sports for about Eu40 million (£27 million) in November last year.

Group chief executive Mark Stafford said that this first foray into retail had gone well and that he was looking at 'a number of opportunities across Europe'.

He said: 'We want this to be a platform for future growth, so deals will be a minimum of Eu50 million (£33.7 million). We will spend a significant portion of the Eu260 million (£175.5 million) - certainly upwards of Eu160 million (£108 million).

'We've no intention of doing small deals and we want to be a big player here.'

However, Stafford ruled out any move into the UK or an expansion of the 70-store Lifestyle Sports chain, which operates on both sides of the Irish border, at this stage.

He said: 'There are horrors going on in the UK between sports retailers - we definitely don't want to get caught in the middle of their price war.

'In three or four years from now we may well revisit the situation in Britain, once things have calmed down.'

Stafford said that the group was looking at France, Germany and Eastern Europe, but added that 'we've yet to do our homework'. He declined to say whether or not Stafford Group was in talks with anyone.

Stafford Group made a pre-tax profit of Eu13.5 million (£9 million) from a turnover of Eu327 million (£220.7 million) last year, up from Eu9.6 million (£6.5 million) on revenue of Eu232 million (£156.6 million) in 2004.