Jul 25, 2008
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Columbia Sportswear reports second-quarter loss

Jul 25, 2008

By Alexandria Sage

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Outerwear maker Columbia Sportswear Co reported a surprising quarterly net loss after a year-ago profit, as U.S. and European retailers canceled orders of the company's namesake brand in the weakening economy, and its shares fell 12 percent.

Chief Executive Tim Boyle also said he foresaw no near-term improvement in consumer buying trends.

"We currently have no evidence to suggest that the U.S. or European retail or consumer environment will improve noticeably before 2009," Boyle told analysts during a conference call.

Moreover, Columbia said it will have to liquidate excess inventory that retailers no longer want, causing the company to slash its full-year profit expectations well below Wall Street's projections.

The company reported a second-quarter net loss of $1.8 million, or 5 cents per share, compared with a year-ago net profit of $10 million, or 27 cents per share.

Analysts had expected a profit of 4 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Revenue fell 3 percent in the quarter to $213.1 million, driven by an 18 percent decline in U.S. sales. That was also below analysts' average forecast, $230.5 million.

The sales decline meant that recent investments the company has been making in marketing and retail expansion cut directly into profit in what is Columbia's lowest volume quarter.

"Reduced consumer spending levels and tighter credit markets have caused retailers to request unusual and unpredictable levels of order delays and cancellations," Boyle said.

The weak U.S. economy has caused apparel retailers to struggle, from department stores like Nordstrom to specialty players like Dick's Sporting Goods Inc that carry Columbia's jackets, sportswear and shoes.

Consumers have pulled back on spending due to higher gasoline and food costs, and exacerbated by a housing slump and tighter credit. Sales of apparel, especially items that are viewed as discretionary, have especially suffered.

For the third quarter, Columbia expects sales to fall 4 percent, with earnings per share of about $1.44, compared with $1.72 a year earlier.

Wall Street has been expecting earnings of $1.58 with revenue to remain relatively flat.

For 2008, earnings per share are expected to range between $2.60 and $2.70, compared with the $3.16 expected by analysts, on average, according to Reuters Estimates.

Columbia's 2008 revenue is expected to decline about 3 percent, with lower gross margins due to discounts and higher production costs.

Operating expenses as a percentage of total net sales in 2008 will rise some 440 basis points over the prior year, the company said.

Columbia shares fell 12 percent to $35.01 following the earnings report on Thursday. They closed at $39.81, down about 4 percent, on the Nasdaq during the regular session.

(Additional reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Andre Grenon and Carol Bishopric)

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