Mike Ashley’s retail empire has announced the start of a £70 million spending spree to buy up stock in the company in an attempt to boost the share price.

Bosses at the group, which includes department store House of Fraser and retail chains Sports Direct and Game, said the plan is to reduce the number of shares in circulation.

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The spending will start now and run until April 24 next year, and follows a similar spree this year in which the company spent £60 million on shares.

Companies typically announce share buyback schemes in an attempt to boost the price as the number of shares in circulation decreases, making them more attractive and valuable.

Mr Ashley, the company’s largest shareholder with a 68% stake, is set to benefit most from the deal and has already seen shares rise from lows of 174.2p at the height of the first lockdown.

Shares ended last week at 732.5p, giving the retail tycoon a paper fortune worth £2.4 billion.

On Friday the company revealed surging half-year profits and forecast a jump in annual earnings despite revealing a hit from supply chain costs and pandemic uncertainty.

Pre-tax profits hit £186 million for the six months to October 24, up from £106.1 million a year earlier when trading was hit by lockdown store closures.

Underlying pre-tax profits lifted 61.7% to £186.8 million as sales raced 23.6% higher to £2.3 billion over the half-year.

Frasers said it booked a £135.3 million impairment for the pandemic, with restrictions returning to parts of Europe, as well as to cover soaring shipping container and supply chain costs and inflation pressure on consumer spending.