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Sports Direct rules out Debenhams takeover

Sports Direct has quashed speculation that it could increase its 30% stake in embattled department store Debenhams with a buyout deal.

Senior non-executive director Simon Bentley caused confusion when he told reporters that a House of Fraser and Debenhams merger had “been discussed” by the board during its AGM on Wednesday 12 September.

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It was also speculated that Sports Direct owner Mike Ashley might acquire the department store in a rescue deal, similar to House of Fraser.

Bentley later denied making any mention of a merger saying he was asked a “general question” and “replied in the positive”. The confusion prompted regulatory body The Takeover Panel to ask Sports Direct for clarification.

The company issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange which said: “Further to recent press speculation in relation to Debenhams, Sports Direct confirms that it does not intend to make an offer to acquire the entire issued and to be issued ordinary share capital of Debenhams.

“This announcement is made in accordance with Rule 2.8 of the Code. As a result of this announcement, Sports Direct will, except with the consent of the UK Panel on Takeovers and Mergers, be bound by the restrictions contained in Rule 2.8 of the Code.”

During the meeting, Bentley and Sports Direct chairman Keith Hellawell both announced their departures from the board.

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