February 12, 2018 / 9:01 AM / in a month

Puma upbeat for 2018 after solid end to 2017

HERZOGENAURACH, Germany, Feb 12 (Reuters) - German sportswear brand Puma said on Monday it expects to increase its operating profit by another third in 2018 and lift sales by 10 percent after it reported solid fourth-quarter sales and profits, helped by strong demand for its shoes.

Puma, which still far lags German rival Adidas and market leader Nike, has revived its fortunes in recent years by focusing on soccer, running and motorsports, plus its women’s business, partnering with the likes of singer Rihanna.

Puma reported quarterly earnings before interest and taxation (EBIT) more than doubled to 30 million euros ($37.8 million) on sales up a currency-adjusted 14.5 percent to 1.04 billion euros, broadly in line with average analyst forecasts.

Sales growth was particularly strong for its core footwear business, up a currency-adjusted 19 percent. Sales rose fastest in the Europe, Middle East and Africa region, up 18.5 percent, followed by the Americas, up 14 percent.

Puma, which saw its shares tumble last month after French parent Kering said it would spin off the brand to its shareholders, on Friday announced plans to distribute a one-off dividend of 12.50 euros per share for 2017.

Puma Chief Executive Bjorn Gulden said momentum built in 2017, along with positive feedback from consumers and retail partners, made the firm positive for 2018, predicting a 10 percent rise in sales in constant currencies.

Puma expects 2018 EBIT of between 305 million and 325 million, up from 245 million in 2017. ($1 = 0.8146 euros) (Reporting by Emma Thomasson; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

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