Puma AG said that fourth-quarter profits slid 79% as writedowns on the value of inventories offset higher sales of its shoes, shirts and other equipment. Sales rose 11.3% to €561.3 million ($710.0 million) from €504.5 million ($638.2 million) a year earlier, boosted in part by year-end discounting in the U.S. and Europe, key markets for the company, as well as in Asia. On a currency adjusted basis, consolidated sales rose 7.3%.

Puma said sales in the Americas were up 6.6% for the quarter, reaching €171.1 million.($216.5 million) while Asia-Pacific region sales were up 10.7 percent to €169.8 million ($214.8 million.). Sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose 5.5 percent to €220.5 million ($278.9 million.)

Footwear sales increased 6.2% and Apparel was up 5.8%. Sales in Accessories contributed a strong 26.1% increase to the growth.

The Herzogenaurach-based company earned €8.1 million ($10.2 million) in the October-December period compared with €38.3 million ($48.4 million) the year before. The decline came as the company wrote down the value of inventories and covered reorganizational expenses. The non-recurrent items amounted to €25 million ($40.5 million).

The gross profit margin in the fourth quarter was squeezed by close out sales and inventory devaluations and fell by 480 basis points from last year to 46.8%. All regions and product segments were affected.

SG&A increased by 6.3% to €230.9 million ($292 million), which helped to reduce the cost ratio from 43.1% to 41.1%. The improvement in the cost ratio did not completely offset the softening of the gross profit margin.

Operating profit declined by 29.0% from to €37.2 million ($47 million), or from 10.4% to 6.6% as a percentage of sales. Measures that had been implemented to tackle the effects of the global economic slow-down and the difficult consumer environment had an impact of €25 million ($40.6 million) on fourth quarter EBIT.

French luxury goods company PPR took over Puma in 2007, acquiring more than 62% of the company's shares, but Puma continues to report separately and keep its German stock market listing.

For the year, the company's net profit fell 13.5% to €232.8 million ($294.5 million) compared with €269 million ($340.3 million) while sales rose 6.4% to €2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) from nearly €2.4 billion ($3.0 million) in 2007.

Outlook 2009

Puma said that as a result of the slowdown of the global economy and the deterioration in consumer spending, order backlog as of year-end declined by 5.4% or currency-adjusted 5.8% to €1,152.5 million ($1,872.6 million). This includes mainly deliveries scheduled for the first and second quarter of 2009.

Currency-adjusted orders for Footwear decreased by 2.3% to €698.3 million ($883.3 million), and Apparel orders were down 12.4% to €383.8 million ($485.5 million). Currency-adjusted orders for Accessories stood at €70.4 million ($89 million) and were unchanged from last year's level.

Currency-adjusted orders in the EMEA region were down by 10.0% to € 610.9 million ($772.7 million.) Orders in the Americas region increased significantly by 19.9% currency-neutral to €280.7 million ($355.0 million). Because of the difficult market environment in the Asia/Pacific region orders declined by 15.9% to €260.7 million ($329.8 million) after several years of double-digit growth rates.

Performance in the year 2009 will be difficult to forecast due to the general ongoing market environment. However, PUMA said it is prepared to react appropriately in an uncertain market environment and to a weak economy. The implemented measures, which were already reflected in the expenses recorded on December 31, 2008, should contribute accordingly.

Jochen Zeitz, Chairman and CEO: “Despite a very difficult market situation and a weak consumer sentiment, PUMA managed to post new sales records in the last financial year. In particular, sales growth in the fourth quarter was solid. We have implemented measures in the fourth quarter to prepare us properly for the coming year and will react flexibly to further changes in the market environment.”