* Puma says Q4 EBIT down 76.7 pct, below estimates
* Says 2009 performance difficult to forecast
* Shares ease
(Adds details and background)
NUREMBERG, Germany, Feb 18 World No. 3
sportswear maker Puma (PUMG.DE) reported a 76.7 percent drop in
fourth-quarter operating on Wednesday, missing analysts'
estimates, as it prepared for difficult times ahead.
Puma, owned by French retailer and Gucci owner PPR
PTRP.PA, refrained from giving an outlook for 2009, saying it
was difficult to give a forecast due to the market environment.
"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," Chief Executive
Jochen Zeitz said.
Fourth-quarter earnings before interest and tax (EBIT) fell
to 12.2 million euros ($15.43 million) from 52.4 million in the
same period a year ago, below the average estimate of 48 million
euros in a Reuters poll of 10 analysts.
Fourth-quarter EBIT took a 25 million euro hit from steps
including writing down the value of inventory as well as closing
Consolidated sales rose 11.3 percent in euro terms to 561.3
million euros, beating estimates.
Puma, which itself had aimed at a mid- to high-single-digit
sales growth, said order intake was down 5.4 percent as of the
end of 2008 at 1.15 billion euros.
Puma shares dipped 0.2 percent to 132.50 euros by 0923 GMT,
outperforming a 1.5 percent drop in the German mid-cap index
Data showed last week that Europe's biggest economy shrank
at a record pace in the last quarter of 2008 as global demand
for its manufactured exports sank and dented investments.
Nike (NKE.N), the world's largest athletic shoe and clothing
maker, said last week up to 4 percent of its workforce could be
cut amid an ongoing business review.
Adidas ADSG.DE, the world's No. 2 sport goods maker after
Nike, has said it planned to cut 300 jobs at its Reebok brand
and 70 at TaylorMade. Puma has said it so far did not plan any
job cuts in the United States.
According to Thomson Reuters StarMine, which weights
analysts' forecasts according to their track record, Puma shares
trade at about 8.5 times 12-month forecast earnings, a discount
to peers like Adidas and Nike.
(Reporting by Eva Kuehnen)