Lucky, kate spade sales limit Fifth & Pacific loss

Thu Oct 25, 2012 8:46am EDT

(Reuters) - Fashion company Fifth & Pacific Cos Inc FNP.N reported a narrower-than-expected quarterly loss on Thursday as its Lucky Brand and kate spade lines enjoyed strong sales, partially offsetting continuing problems for its Juicy Couture brand.

Net sales fell 4.2 percent to $364.6 million. Fifth & Pacific, formerly known as Liz Claiborne Inc, has shed many brands in the past two years, including Claiborne, to lower its debt and focus on its three marquee brands.

Excluding businesses it still had a year earlier, sales rose 6.6 percent, fueled largely by gains at the upscale, higher-margin kate spade shoes and accessories brand, which competes with the likes of Michael Kors Holdings Inc (KORS.N) and Coach Inc (COH.N).

Comparable sales for kate spade were up 22 percent in the quarter, ended September 29, and up 5 percent at Lucky Brand, both a percentage point higher than the company's preliminary quarterly report in early October.

Fifth & Pacific reported a third-quarter net loss of $18.8 million, or 17 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $214.6 million, or $2.27 a share.

Excluding discontinued business and items such as currency fluctuations, the company had an adjusted loss of 5 cents per share, compared with earnings from continuing operations of 4 cents per share a year earlier.

Analysts' average forecast was an adjusted loss of 7 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In early October, the company slashed its profit forecast for 2012 because of a stalled turnaround at Juicy Couture, its largest brand by sales, and the need to cut prices on Juicy items to get shoppers to buy them.

Fifth & Pacific on Thursday stood by its lowered forecast for 2012 adjusted earnings of $100 million to $115 million excluding items such as interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Earlier this year, Chief Executive William McComb said Juicy Couture's business would start improving in the second half of 2012, but that has not yet come about.

(Reporting by Phil Wahba; Editing by Gerald E. McCormick and John Wallace)