Sporting goods chain Sports Direct has increased its stake in rival UK retailer JD Sports, which today (23 September) posted a 54% increase in profits for the first half.

According to a filing on the London Stock Exchange, Sports Direct, founded by businessman Mike Ashley, has now built up a 13.23% stake in JD Sports.

Budget-priced Sports Direct is experiencing the hardest trading period in its history, but still managed to post a slight increase in sales and profits, at GBP150m, last quarter.

Meanwhile, JD has more than doubled its profits to GBP12.4m (US$23m) for the first half of 2008.

Earlier in the year Sports Direct sold its 19.9% stake in Umbro to Nike as part of the Oregon-based group's $582m bid for the football brand.

Entrepreneur Ashley is in the process of selling Premier League football club Newcastle United, having fallen out of favour with supporters.

He purchased the club in last year after making GBP929m from Sports Direct's floatation on the London Stock Exchange in February 2007.