Sales climbed almost 50% in the 52 weeks ended 2 February to £4.72bn (2017: £3.16bn), driven by a billion-pound contribution from Finish Line – the US business it acquired in a “momentous” £400mln deal last summer.
Like-for-like growth, which strips out the impact of new and closed stores, was also strong at 6% as JD shrugged off any concerns about the UK high street.
The strong top-line performance trickled down to the bottom line, with pre-tax profits climbing 15.4% to £339.9mln (2017: £294.5mln), despite margins falling slightly as a result of dilution from the newly acquired businesses.
Excluding a few one-off charges, headline profit before tax – JD’s preferred metric – rose by a similar percentage to £355.2mln (2017:£307.4mln).
That is better than what bosses had guided for back in January, when they told the market headline PBT would be around £352.0mln.
Finish Line major growth driver
“I am very pleased to report that the group continues to make excellent progress,” said chief executive Peter Cowgill.
“Given the significance of Easter trading to the overall result of the group and the change in the timing relative to last year, any announcement of like-for-like sales performance in the year to date would lack precision.
“However, we are pleased with the continued underlying positive performance of the Group and are excited by the major developments ahead.”
The acquisition of Finish Line, which gives JD a strong foothold in the world’s largest athleisure market, no doubt spurred the FTSE 250 group to new heights.
The newbie added £956.6mln to overall revenues in 2018 and boosted profits by £26.6mln, despite only joining the JD stable in June.
“We maintain our belief that Finish Line is capable of delivering improved levels of profitability,” said Cowgill in the results.
City analysts impressed
“It’s hard to think of such an impressive showing anywhere else in retail and JD’s LFL sales growth and profit delivery is stellar, despite the negative background and awkward weather for outdoor,” said Peel Hunt in a note to clients.
“The JD format is resonating with both sports brands and customers worldwide, and the US, for many the final frontier for JD, has started really well.
“Recent trading sounds like it has been impressive and there is yet another upgrade here.
“The shares have gone from strength to strength and we see no reason why this won’t continue as the strength of the JD brand, its management and its general forward momentum show no sign of waning. It’s a clear buy with a higher teen multiple appropriate.”