The Ashley comedy show is back in town

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The Sports Direct comedy show is back in town, this time with the retailer’s first set of full-year results since it floated in February. Founder Mike Ashley MBE (services to news editing) has some great lines in his 41-page release.The group says the first three months of the current year have been “exceptionally difficult” – “much worse than our worst fears”, according to Merrill Lynch, the house broker which floated the company – but don’t look for anything so straightforward as a like-for-like sales number. There isn’t one for Q1. Hello?

Also, apparently “to avoid any future conflict of interest” the company is proposing to buy 35 freehold properties (reckoned to be worth £100m) off Ashley. Shareholders may have their own view of whether this this sort of related party transaction is a conflict of interest when they vote on it at the AGM. And while the City demands a chairman, the company is only able to say it will open an office in London.

There’s plenty more in this release – not least the underlying figures, at which, if you aren’t a shareholder, you have to laugh in places – and we may get more from our interview with Ashley later (although not pictures, they’ve told us). We hear people were up till 3am this morning drafting this stuff.

Oriel described this morning’s analysts’ meeting as “farcical”, adding: “The company either didn’t know the answers to basic financial questions, or weren’t willing to give the answers.” No surprise, then, that the shares – floated at 300p less than six months ago – are now less than half that, off 24 per cent today at 144p.

There is quite a lot of other news today, though nothing quite so fun.

BP has reported a 13 per cent fall in second-quarter profits, on the back of a decline in oil production and operational problems at the company’s US refineries. The figures are a bit better than expected. It’s the first set of results presented by Tony Hayward, and as Ed Crooks wrote this morning, the new chief executive has quite a bit on his plate.

Capita has promised its shareholders a special dividend of 25p a share, costing £155m, and increased its interim dividend 48 per cent to 4p per share. The news came with interim results which showed pre-tax profits up 18 per cent to £103.8m in the six months to June.

We will also get news of Vodafone’s AGM later. Our telecoms editor, Andrew Parker, is there.

Qatar has also confirmed the weekend stories that Tony Campbell, former deputy chief executive of Asda, has been lined up to chair J Sainsbury if it succeeds in buying it. Delta Two also denies David Mellor, who is an adviser to the Three Delta vehicle, is advising on the Sainsbury bid.

Finally, there is news, too, from Misys, Pace Micro Technology, SCi, Wolfson Microelectronics, Johnson Matthey and 3i. Keep an eye on the site.

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