PUMA AG reported that first quarter consolidated sales increased 11.9% to €497 million ($652 mm), or a 13.7% increase when reported in currency-neutral terms. Footwear sales were up were up 12.1% (in Euro 10.6%) to €338 million ($444 mm) and Apparel by 12.4% (11.2%) to €124 million ($162 mm). Accessories realized the strongest growth rate with 32.5% in currency-neutral terms (30.1% in Euros) and sales climbed to €35 million ($45.5 mm).

Worldwide branded sales, which include consolidated and license sales, rose 16.3% to €639 million ($652 mm) for the quarter ended March 31, or an 18.1% increase in currency-neutral terms.

The gross profit margin increased in Q1 by another 170 basis points to 53.4%, resulting once again in the highest gross profit margin in company history. Apparel margins increased four percentage points to 53.4% and Accessories by five percentage points to 51.1%. Footwear added another 0.7 percentage points on top of its already high level, moving from 52.9% to 53.6% despite the difficult market environment in Europe.

In total, SG&A rose 140 basis points to 28.4%, due to the expansion of own retail activities and additional personnel expenses resulting from the management incentive program.

Net earnings grew by 13.5% to €91 million ($119 mm) versus €80 million ($100 mm) in last year’s quarter. The net return increased from 18.0% to 18.3%. Earnings per share jumped 13.5% from €5.00 ($7.45) to €5.68 ($6.25). Diluted earnings per share were calculated at €5.63 $7.39) compared with €4.88 ($6.10).

Europe region sales were up by 7.8% to €338 million ($444) during the first three months and represented 68.1% of consolidated sales. Gross profit margin reached a new record and climbed from 54.7% to 56.9%. Backlog stood at €522 million, a decline of 5.5% versus last year which is mainly a result of stronger than expected sales in Q1, and an economic weakness in Western Europe. Furthermore, last year’s number was positively influenced by major sporting events in the summer of 2004.

Sales in the Americas continued to grow strongly. Currency-adjusted, Q1 sales jumped 37.7% and in Euro terms by 29.5% to €94 million ($123.6 mm). The region accounts for 19% of consolidated sales. In addition, gross profit margin improved significantly by 130 basis points from 44.8% to 46.1%. The currency-adjusted orders volume was up by a strong 48%, or in Euro by 38.8% to €170 million ($207.3 mm).

In the U.S. market, sales increased by 29.5% to $D96 million and order backlog showed a further acceleration, up by 36.3% to $D190 million at the end of March.

Asia/Pacific sales increased currency-neutral by 3.2% (in Euro terms –1.5%) to €44 million ($57.5 mm) and contributed 8.8% to consolidated sales. The gross profit margin in this region improved strongly from 48% to 50.9%. As of March 31, 2005, orders on hand were up 15% currency-adjusted (in Euro terms 9.9%) and totaled €90 million ($109.8 mm). In branded sales, the Asian region in particular developed very positively with growth rates of over 22% and 28% currency adjusted.

In Africa/Middle East sales increased significantly by 59.4% to €20 million ($26.9 mm), accounting for 4.1% of consolidated sales. The gross profit margin climbed strongly from 29.1% to 34.6%. Orders on hand showed a further strong increase of almost 50%.

Future orders on hand as of March 31, 2005 stood currency-adjusted 6.2% above last year, marking the 37th consecutive quarter of orders increase. In Euro terms, orders grew by 4.6% to €812 million ($990 mm). The future orders mainly include orders for shipments in Q2 and Q3.
Footwear orders were up by 6.1% (in Euro terms 4.1%) to €555 million ($677 mm) and Apparel totaled €207 million (253 mm), an increase of 2.1% (1.4%). Strongest growth was realized in Accessories, with orders up by 29.5% (27.4%) to €51 million ($62 mm).

Management confirms sales and earnings expectations for 2005
Taking into account a strong performance in Q1, management expects to show mid- to high- single-digit sales growth and reaffirms the guidance given earlier this year for the outlook FY2005. The license business should increase in a double-digit range.