Outdoor financials: Analyst upgrades VF due to brand growth opportunities, plus Dick's Sporting Goods, Timberland, Collective Brands, Crocs, Liberty Media

An analyst upgraded VF due to brand growth opportunities, Dick's Sporting Goods' Q4 earnings rose, Timberland's board approved the repurchase of another 6 million shares, Collective Brands reported a Q4 profit loss, Crocs' director bought 250,000 shares, and Liberty Media authorized a $1 billion buyback.

Analyst upgrades VF due to brand growth opportunities

Crediting strong U.S. business amid current economic challenges, analyst Jim Duffy of Thomas Weisel Partners upgraded VF Corp. (NYSE: VFC), saying he was encouraged by growth opportunities for brands such as Reef, Kipling and Eagle Creek.

"We expect VF's international business can sustain mid-teens revenue growth through 2012 bringing international revenue to better than 33 percent of the business total," Duffy wrote in a note to clients. He added that further international expansion could also provide a buffer against a potential U.S. slowdown.

Duffy raised his rating to "Market Weight" from "Overweight" and increased his price target to $96 from $94, implying growth of 29 percent over its closing price of $74.61 on Tuesday.

Shares of VF added $3.41 to close at $78.02 on March 12. The stock has traded in a 52-week range of $63.68 to $96.20.

Dick's Sporting Goods Q4 earnings rise

Fourth-quarter earnings for Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS) increased 8 percent, boosted by two recent acquisitions and operational improvements.

The company earned $73.2 million, or $0.62 per share, compared with $67.7 million, or $0.60 per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenue rose 18 percent to $1.21 billion from $1.03 billion a year earlier.

The company said the results were achieved partly through its acquisition of Golf Galaxy in February of 2007 and Chick's Sporting Goods in November. Better margins and improved operational efficiencies also helped the quarter, the retailer said.

For the full year, Dick's posted a profit of $155 million, or $1.33 per share, compared with $112.6 million, or $1.02 per share, in 2006. Revenue rose 25 percent to $3.89 billion.

Citing an uncertain economic environment, Dick's said it expects to report a profit of 16 cents to 19 cents per share for the first quarter. Same-store sales, which include Dick's Sporting Goods and Golf Galaxy stores, are expected to fall by 1 percent to 4 percent compared with the first quarter of 2007.

For the full fiscal year ending in January 2009, the company predicts a profit of $1.49 to $1.54 per share. Same-store sales are expected to be flat to 1 percent higher than a year ago.

"We are cautiously optimistic about our business prospects in 2008," said Chairman and CEO Edward Stack in a statement. Despite the fact that it's continuing to add stores and grow its private label business, Stack added, "we can't ignore the uncertain macro economic environment we are all currently facing."

Timberland board OKs repurchase of another 6 million shares

Timberland's (NYSE: TBL) board of directors has authorized the repurchase of another 6 million shares of common stock.

The company said the authorization adds to its current 6 million-share authorization. Timberland said about 1 million shares remained on that authorization at the end of 2007.

As of Feb. 22, Timberland had 48.4 million shares outstanding.

Collective Brands reports Q4 profit loss

Collective Brands (NYSE:PSS), parent of the Saucony and Hind brands, said it swung to a loss in the fourth quarter.

For the period ended Feb. 2, the company reported a net loss of $46.6 million, or $0.73 per share, compared with a profit of $24.6 million, or $0.37 per share, in the year-ago period.

Excluding a $29 million purchase accounting expense, the company's adjusted loss in the latest quarter was $19.7 million, or $0.31 per share.

Revenue rose to $776.8 million from $692.7 million. The 2006 period included an extra week compared with the latest quarter. The extra week represented revenue of $36.4 million, the company said.

For the year, Collective Brands posted profit of $42.7 million, or $0.65 per share, on revenue of $3.04 billion.

Collective Brands warned that in the next six to nine months, same-store sales could miss long-term goals.

Additionally, Collective Brands said about 180 employees would lose their jobs due to the closure of two North American distribution centers. The company said it plans to create about 130 new jobs at two other distribution centers.

Crocs director buys 250,000 shares

Crocs (Nasdaq: CROX) Director Michael Marks bought 250,000 shares of stock, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

In a Form 4 filed with the SEC, Marks reported he bought the shares for $19.87 to $20 apiece on March 6.

Insiders file Form 4s with the SEC to report transactions in their companies' shares. Open market purchases and sales must be reported within two business days of the transaction.

Liberty Media authorizes $1 billion buyback

Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LINTA), parent of Backcountry.com, said its board approved the buyback of up to $1 billion in Liberty Entertainment common stock and up to $300 million in Liberty Capital stock.

The Liberty Capital buyback replaces a prior repurchase agreement, but the existing Liberty Interactive Group buyback is still effective.

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