Another blow to JJB

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A BACKER of Wigan retail giant JJB has dumped millions of its shares.

Harris Associates has sold more than five million shares in the beleaguered sports chain, which is based at Martland Mill.

The sale comes less than a week after US investor Dicks Sporting Goods wrote off its £20m investment due to a poor summer.

Harris, who once held nearly 30 per cent of the shares, sold enough to take its share below 20 per cent to 18.6 per cent.

The share price of JJB now stands at 3.3p, giving the company a market value of just £9.6m. Shares slumped by almost a quarter last week a day after Dicks Sporting Good wrote off £20m it put into the firm just five months earlier.

Fears have been growing for the firm with more shops shutting in recent months as part of their company voluntary arrangement, which was announced last year.

The closure of its Grand Arcade branch in June meant that the company was left with no town centre presence for the business, formally owned by Latics chairman Dave Whelan.

Things looked like they were on the up for JJB back in April, when it received a £30m investment package, which included cash from some of its largest shareholders including Invesco, Harris, Crystal Amber and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The aim of that cash was to refurbish many of its top stores by October but this was stopped after only five of the branches underwent the transformation.

In July, the company reported a sales drop of 8.7 per cent, prompting Dicks to make the decision to write off its investment.

City retail analyst Nick Bubb last week said: “JJB has been a severe embarrassment to everybody involved with it, from Invesco to Dicks. Some sort of administration looms large again I guess. It’s losing more than £50m a year and haemorrhaging cash and it’s not at all obvious how it can be turned around.

“People keep saying that there must be room in the market for a sports specialist and the big suppliers such as Adidas are desperate to keep it afloat, to stop Sports Direct from dominating the industry entirely, but they can’t force consumers to shop with JJB.”

Company bosses, however, insist they are busy consulting investors about financing directions to take within the next year.