Britain's biggest sporting goods retailer, Sports Direct, posted a 14.6% rise in profit in its Christmas quarter and said it was confident of hitting its full-year target.
The group, with over 600 sports stores in Europe, said that gross profit for the 13 weeks to January 26, its financial third quarter, rose to £280.7m, up from £244.8m a year before.
Sports Direct is controlled by billionaire Newcastle United soccer club owner Mike Ashley, who has indicated that he is interested in making a bid for the Elverys chain of sports shops here.
Sports Direct has grown rapidly during a downturn through a mixture of popular cheap offerings, acquisitions, online growth and the demise of rivals like JJB Sports.

It now wants to expand across Europe where it operates in 19 countries.
Total sales rose 11.2% to £655.4m in its third quarter, including a 6.9% rise in its core sports retail division. Sales in its fashion arm, which has around 160 stores under names including USC and Cruise, rose 53%.

The firm said it was very confident of at least achieving its target of underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of £310m for 2013-14, before a charge for bonus share schemes.
Sports Direct gave no update on its plans to strike a partnership with British department store Debenhams, which could entail the sports firm's goods being sold in its stores.
In January, Sports Direct bought and then promptly sold a stake in Debenhams, replacing it with an option that could see it buying a 6.6% stake next year, and has been in talks to work with the department store on an operational level.