PUMA AG has kicked off another strong year, posting a consolidated net sales increase of 29.3% to €443.8 million ($554.4 mm) versus €343.2 million ($368.2 mm) last year. On a currency-neutral basis, sales were up 33.2%. Total organic growth, or that growth achieved without the inclusion of the acquired PUMA Japan operation, was up 21%, or 24.9% on a currency-adjusted basis.

Apparel sales momentum was said to have “continued on a very high level”, reporting organic growth of 39.1%, or 42.3% currency-adjusted, to €111.2 million ($138.9 mm). Footwear sales grew by 22.7%, or 26.1% currency-adjusted, to €305.9 million ($382.1 mm) and Accessories increased 90.9%, or 93.6% currency-adjusted, to €26.7 million ($33.4 mm). Organic growth for footwear was up 18.3% and Accessories were up 30.6% currency-adjusted.

Europe was up 22.9%, the Americas achieved growth of 24.4%, or 9.2% in Euro currency, Asia/Pacific increased by 251.8%, or 26.4% excluding Japan, and the Africa/Middle East region realized an increase of 49.9%.

PUMA’s global branded sales, which include consolidated sales and licensee sales, reached €549.3 million ($686.2 mm), posting a 21.8% increase over last year. The currency-adjusted growth was up 25.1%.

Gross profit margins hit a new record at 51.7% of sales compared to 47.2% in last year’s first quarter, an increase of 450 basis points. The weakness of the U.S.
Dollar, an increase in the owned-retail business, as well as a favorable product mix contributed to the margin improvements. Footwear margin climbed from 48% to 52.9%, Apparel from 45.2% to 49.4%, and Accessories margin remained flat at 46.1%. Strong improvement was also seen across all regions.

Due to the record-high gross profit margin and a further decline in SG&A as a percentage of sales, profitability far exceeded expectation for the company. EBITDA increased by almost 61% and reached approximately €120.7 million ($150.8 mm).

Net earnings were up 64.6% to €80.4 million ($100.4 mm) in Q1 from €48.8 million ($52.4 mm) in the year-ago quarter. Diluted earnings per share were up more than 62% to €4.90 ($6.12) in first quarter from €3.02 ($3.24) in Q1 LY.

Looking ahead, Puma marked its 33rd consecutive quarter of backlog order growth, posting a 20.1% increase in backlog at quarter-end to a new record high of €776.6 million ($945.7 mm). Currency adjusted this marks an increase of 23.8%. Excluding Japan, orders were up by 24.5% in Euro or 28.3% currency-adjusted.

Based on the stronger-than-expected Q1 results, and the improved futures backlog picture, PUMA is increasing guidance for the full year, while still focusing on controlled growth. Sales are now expected to grow in the 15% to 20% range, resulting in the sixth consecutive year of double-digit growth. Gross margin is expected to exceed 50% for the year and EBT is forecast to grow 30% versus 2003.

“We are very pleased with the brand's continued strong momentum and the respective orderbook,” said Jochen Zeitz, PUMA chairman and CEO. “The direction thus far indicates that new records in revenue and earnings should be set. The brand's strong positioning in all product segments and regions remains the foundation for our sustainable growth as outlined in our Phase III, long-term business plan.”