Puma ends sailing sponsorship as profit crumbles
FRANKFURT (Reuters) - Germany's Puma (PUMG.DE) is to stop sponsoring sailing, including teams in the Americas Cup and the Volvo Ocean races, as part of efforts to focus on sports and products that bring in the most money.
Puma, which on Thursday reported 2012 profit down 70 percent, is going through its biggest reorganization in 20 years to counter falling profits and encourage more people in the United States, Europe and China to buy its shoes and T-shirts.
The group is closing stores, cutting products and last month said it would stop sponsoring rugby, leaving the Irish rugby union team looking for new kit.
In sailing, Puma will stop sponsoring the Oracle team, current holder of the Americas Cup, after the 2013 season.
Chief Executive Franz Koch told journalists that it would take "some time" before the changes brought visible success, with sales this year expected to remain on a level with 2012's total of 3.27 billion euros ($4.4 billion).
The world's third-largest sportswear and equipment company, behind Nike and Adidas, is also undergoing a management reshuffle led by 82 percent shareholder PPR (PRTP.PA), the French luxury goods group that owns the Gucci brand.
Koch will leave the group at the end of March, after less than two years as CEO. A replacement will be announced in the coming weeks, Koch said.
Chief Financial Officer Michael Laemmermann and Chief Commercial Officer Stefano Caroti will lead the company with support from PPR's Jean-Francois Palus, who chairs the Puma supervisory board, until the CEO post is filled.
Puma swung to a fourth-quarter net loss of 42.6 million euros, against a consensus forecast for profit of 10.1 million euros in a Reuters poll.
Earnings were hit by costs of 98 million euros, related to a payout in Spain to claim back trademark rights and costs for closing its operations in Greece, Cyprus and Bulgaria. It will continue to distribute products to these countries.
Puma, which proposed cutting its dividend for 2012 to 0.5 euros from 2 euros the previous year, said it aimed for a significant improvement in net earnings in 2013.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan; Editing by David Goodman)