Outdoor financials: Liberty Media pays off debt to fortify bottom line, plus Forzani, Amer Sports

Liberty Media payid off debt to fortify its bottom line, Forzani's Q4 was rattled by the economy, and Amer Sports distributed the agenda for an Extraordinary General Meeting
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Liberty Media pays off debt to fortify bottom line

Liberty Media (Nasdaq: LINTA), parent of Backcountry.com, said it used around $503 million in cash to pay off debt at its Liberty Capital (Nasdaq: LCAPA) unit and strengthen its balance sheet.

The cash was used for the early retirement of $750 million face value of exchangeable debentures.

Liberty Capital also drew down an additional $1.638 billion against derivative positions related to its stake in Sprint Nextel in a bid to reduce its counterparty risk exposure.

It said the move brings total outstanding debt against derivative positions to $2.263 billion. The company expects to use proceeds from the derivative positions, expected to total $2.379 billion when they mature in 2009 and 2010, to offset the borrowings.

"We have increased net asset value and strengthened our balance sheet by decreasing our debt at a significant discount to face value and eliminating almost all of our derivative counterparty risk," said Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei in a statement.

Forzani's Q4 rattled by economy, plans extensive store openings for '09

Forzani Group (FGL.TO) said its fourth-quarter profit fell almost 16 percent, hurt by weak consumer confidence and falling same-store sales. Among its retail banners are Sport Chek, Sports Experts, Coast Mountain Sports and Fitness Source.

The company also reported it plans to open more than 25 new stores this year to take advantage of a weak economy and an increase in available property. It has earmarked CDN $30 million to CDN $35 million (USD $24.1-$28.2 million) for capital expenditures in its 2010 fiscal year, mostly for the store openings.

The plans call for at least 14 new corporate stores, resulting in upward of 4.8 million additional square feet, with another 12 stores, or 1.9 million square feet, planned for its franchise stores, with a push into the big-box format.

For the quarter ended Feb. 1, earnings were CDN $24.1 million (USD $19.4 million), or CDN $0.79 (USD $0.63) a share, compared to CDN $28.7 million (USD $23.1 million), or CDN $0.85 (USD $0.68) a share, for the same time last year.

Retail system sales for the quarter were CDN $506.9 million (USD $408.4 million), down 3.4 percent from the prior year 14-week sales of CDN $524.7 million (USD $422.7 million).

Revenue dropped 7.3 percent to CDN $380.8 million (USD $306.8 million) in the quarter. The company said the decline was a result of Canadians paring down their discretionary spending amid a downturn in the global economy.

Same-store sales in corporate locations were down 8.1 percent and up 0.4 percent in franchise locations, for an overall same-store sales decrease of 5.1 percent. Excluding the impact of the 14th week in the prior year's quarter, quarterly sales were down 3.5 percent in corporate locations and up 5.9 percent in franchise locations for an overall same store sales decrease of 0.2 percent.

The quarterly gross margin was almost flat at 39.8 percent of revenue, or CDN $151.4 million (USD $121.9 million), compared to 40.0 percent, or CDN $164.3 million (USD $132.3 million), for the same period a year ago.

Store operating expenses were 23.5 percent against the prior year of 21.9 percent. General and administrative expenses were 7.8 percent of total revenue versus the prior year's 8.6 percent.

Earnings before interest, taxes and amortization (EBITA) were CDN $47.2 million compared (USD $38.0 million) to CDN $54.6 million (USD $43.9 million) in last year's fourth quarter. As a percentage of revenues, EBITA was 12.4 percent compared to the prior year at 13.3 percent.

For FY '08, net earnings were CDN $29.3 million (USD $23.6 million), or CDN $0.94 (USD $0.75) per share, compared to CDN $47.5 million (USD $38.2 million), or CDN $1.40 (USD $1.12) per share in the prior year, a 38.2 percent decrease in profits and a 32.9 percent decrease in earnings per share. Diluted earnings per share for the 52-week period were CDN $0.93 (USD $0.74), compared to CDN $1.39 (USD $1.11) in the prior year, a 33.1 percent decrease.

Retail system sales for the 52 weeks were CDN $1.60 billion (USD $1.28 million), a CDN $49.5 million (USD $39.8 million) increase from sales for fiscal 2008. Same-store sales in corporate stores decreased 3.5 percent, while franchise stores increased 3.1 percent, with total same-store retail system sales decreasing 1.1 percent. Excluding the impact of the 53rd week in fiscal 2008, sales were down 1.9 percent in corporate locations and up 4.8 percent in franchise locations for an overall same-store sales increase of 0.5 percent. Revenue was CDN $1.30 billion (USD $1.04 billion), a 1.2 percent increase over the 53-week period last year.

Combined gross margin was flat on a year-over-year basis at 35.9 percent of revenue. Store operating expenses were 27.9 percent versus 26.0 percent in the prior year. General and administrative expenses were 8.1 percent of total revenue versus 7.8 percent in the prior year.

EBITA was CDN $97.1 million (USD $78.2 million), or 7.2 percent of total revenue, compared to 9.2 percent last year. Earnings before income taxes for the 52 weeks were CDN $44.3 million (USD $35.6 million) compared to CDN $71.8 million (USD $57.8 million) for the prior year.

Also, the company declared a dividend of CDN $0.075 (USD $0.060) per Class A common share, payable on May 4 to shareholders of record on April 20.

(Conversion of Canadian dollars into U.S. dollars is for information only, is not necessarily relative to earnings, and is based on the currency rate as of April 8.)



Amer Sports distributes agenda for Extraordinary General Meeting


Amer Sports, parent of Salomon, Arc'Teryx and Suunto, released an agenda to shareholders for the company's Extraordinary General Meeting. The meeting, prompted by Novator Finland Oy, is scheduled for April 28 at Amer's headquarters in Helsinki, Finland.



Proposals on the agenda include electing a new board of directors for the company to replace the current members who were elected in the Annual General Meeting held on March 5, 2009, and an amendment to Amer's Articles of Association for the Nomination Committee.

--Compiled by Wendy Geister

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