Shares in stricken retail giant Sports Direct are going crazy on Thursday after the company announced plans to spend around £90 million buying back shares from investors in advance of its AGM in early September.
Sports Direct made the announcement to the markets early this morning, and at the open shares popped. Around 9:40 a.m. BST (4:40 a.m. ET) the company’s stock is 13.5% higher at £2.92 per share. If the stock can hold onto its gains, it would mark the biggest single day gain for Sports Direct since 2009, just two years after its 2007 IPO.
Here’s how the stock looks so far on the day:
“The Company is announcing that it intends to commence a share buyback, the purpose of which is to reduce its share capital.
“The buyback will be for up to a maximum of 29,923,243 ordinary shares, representing approximately 5% of the Company’s issued share capital, for an aggregate maximum consideration of £89,769,729. The Company has engaged Citigroup Global Markets Limited to undertake the buyback on its behalf during the period leading up to the Company’s AGM on 7 September 2016 (at which it is intended to seek shareholder authority for further buybacks).”
The huge jump in Sports Direct’s stock comes just a week after the firm was put through the wringer by a report from the House of Commons Business, Innovation, and Skills Select Committee, which accused the company of employing conditions similar to those in a “Victorian workhouse” in its fulfillment centres and warehouses.
Much of the blame for the conditions was put on Sports Direct’s reclusive billionaire founder and vice chairman, Mike Ashley. In a radio interview after the report was released, Iain Wright, the Committee’s chairman said: “Mike Ashley founded the company and it is made in his image. A one man band with Mike Ashley fully in charge — that’s not acceptable for a large, publicly listed company.”
MPs began investigating Sports Direct after an undercover investigation by the Guardian found workers were effectively earning less than minimum wage because they were made to stay for compulsory searches when leaving the warehouse but weren’t paid for this time.
While shares have jumped on Thursday, they are still substantially depressed in the long run and are currently worth just over a third of their price at this time last year. That crash in share price — largely caused by the scandal surrounding Ashley, as well as several profit warnings from Sports Direct — caused the company to be pushed out of the blue-chip FTSE 100 and into the smaller, more domestically-focused FTSE 250.
Here’s the chart of Sports Direct’s shrinking market capitalisation over the last year: