Sports Direct, the largest sporting goods chain in the United Kingdom, reported a 40% rise in first-half profit, helped by a boost from this summer's soccer World Cup.

The retailer also said it had continued to perform strongly and in line with management expectations in the first two months of its second half.

It said that although it was anticipating a tough start to 2011 it was confident of reaching its full-year to end-April target of underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of 205 million pounds.

Sports Direct, which owns Sports World and Lillywhites stores as well as brands including Slazenger, Lonsdale, Everlast and Dunlop, made an underlying profit before tax of 100.7 million pounds ($158mm) for the 26 weeks to October 24, up from 71.9 million pounds in the same period last year.

Revenue increased 8.3 percent to 819.9 million pounds ($1.29 bn), while gross margin was up 190 basis points to 42.6 percent.

The firm cut its net debt by 25.1% to 233.6 million pounds ($366mm) but is not paying an interim dividend.