Tuesday 4 May 2021 8:50 am

Mike Ashley's Frasers Group launches £60m buying spree despite recent Covid setbacks

Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group has announced plans to spend £60m between now and and July despite warning less than a month ago that it would suffer a £200m hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.

The company, which includes House of Fraser, Sports Direct, Evans Cycles and Jack Wills, among others, will start the buying spree later today, buying a maximum 10 million shares.

Read more: Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group says business rates support ‘near worthless’ for large retailers

No reason was give for the decision but businesses typically purchase shares and hold them in reserve to reduce the number of shares available to the public, which tends to push up the share price.

“The purpose of the programme is to reduce the share capital of the company,” Frasers said.

Pandemic hit

The move comes less than a month after bosses said the retailer could take a hit in excess of £200m due to the Covid-19 restrictions, double its previous estimate in February.

At the time, they added that further restrictions are “almost certain”, believing a writedown against freehold values and other non-cash impairments will be required.

The company has also been critical of the Government’s response to extending the business rates holiday, complaining that the support on offer did not go far enough for big chain retailers.

Read more: Mike Ashley’s Frasers Group to take £100m hit on lockdown restrictions

Despite bemoaning the financial woes for the business, it has also made several unsuccessful attempts to buy up rivals who have struggled during the pandemic, including Arcadia, Debenhams and Peacocks.

Frasers reopened its estate on 12 April following the easing of lockdown restrictions for non-essential retailers. It did not give an update on current trading.

During the first lockdown in March of last year, Ashley tried to claim that Sports Direct was an essential retailer and should remain open, but faced a severe backlash from unions and politicians – including the Prime Minister.

Read more: Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley ordered to replace signage on 180-year-old department store in row with council