Outdoor financials: Outdoor Channel reports fourth quarter and FY 05 results, plus VF, Sports Authority, Amer, Sara Lee, Oakley

Outdoor Channel reports fourth quarter and FY 05 results, VF provides Q1 forecast at consumer conference, Sports Authority proposed sale OK'd by U.S. antitrust authorities, Amer Sports holds annual general meeting, Sara Lee holds forecast for annual sales growth, and Oakley to acquire The Optical Shop of Aspen.
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Outdoor Channel reports fourth quarter and FY 05 results
With one analyst taking a wait-and-see approach just prior to its earnings report, Outdoor Channel Holdings (Nasdaq: OUTD) reported slight increases in its fourth-quarter revenue.

For the 2005 fourth quarter, total revenues increased to $11.4 million from $10.2 million in the prior-year period. Net income totaled $1.2 million, or $0.05 per diluted share, compared to $1.6 million, or $0.07 per diluted share, in the 2004 period.

Also for the quarter, advertising revenue, principally generated from the sale of advertising time on The Outdoor Channel, rose to $6.6 million from $5.9 million in the year-ago period. Subscriber fees rose to $4.1 million from $3.6 million in the 2004 fourth quarter, due to an increased number of paying subscribers. Membership income totaled $783,000, up modestly from $752,000 in the same period a year earlier.

For the full year, total revenues grew to $42.9 million from $40.0 million in 2004. Net income for the year totaled $2.5 million, or $0.10 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $24.2 million, or $1.51 per share, in 2004.

Advertising sales rose 4.4 percent to $22.8 million vs. $21.8 million in 2004, and subscriber fees increased 15.2 percent to $15.4 million in 2005 vs. $13.4 million in 2004. Membership income was relatively flat at $4.7 million for 2005 and 2004, it said.

Shortly prior to its earnings report, an AG Edwards analyst expressed concerns about a seeming lack of subscriber growth, lowering his rating to "Hold" from "Buy."

"While we are not ruling out the possibility that the Outdoor Channel will be able to achieve its subscriber goals, the dearth of activity over the past nine months leaves us wary at this point, and we prefer to wait on the sidelines until there is more visibility on the subscriber-acquisition front," AG Edwards analyst Michael Kupinski wrote in a client note.

Outdoor Channel said it has an estimated 26.2 million subscribers, citing Nielsen Media Research estimates.

On March 16, shares of Outdoor Channel Holdings stock fell as much $1.94 to $9.10 -- a new low -- from the previous day's closing of $11.04. It rallied, though, closing at $11.70 on the Nasdaq -- still way shy of its once-high of $17.49 in the last 52 weeks.

VF provides Q1 forecast at consumer conference

During a presentation at the Bank of America consumer conference, VF Corp. (NYSE: VFC) said it expects its first-quarter earnings to be "flat to up slightly" and its revenue to rise about 5 percent. Analysts surveyed by Reuters Estimates forecast, on average, earnings of $1.02 per share for the first quarter. The company reported earnings of $1.07 per share in the first quarter a year ago. The North Face, JanSport, Eastpak, Reef, and Vans are among VF's many brands.

Sports Authority proposed sale OK'd by U.S. antitrust authorities
The Sports Authority (NYSE: TSA) is getting one step closer to being a private company as U.S. antitrust authorities said they had approved the proposed buyout of the retailer by an affiliate of private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners. Officials completed their investigation of the potentially $1.3 billion deal without taking action, the Federal Trade Commission said in a notice. The pending sale, which was announced in late January, comes nearly three years after Sports Authority merged with Gart Sports and follows a recent effort to improve profits and boost its stock price.

Amer Sports holds annual general meeting
Amer Sports, parent of Salomon, Atomic and Suunto, held its annual general meeting to discuss 2005's profit and loss and appoint board members, among other things.

During the meeting, the profit and loss account and the balance sheet, as well as the consolidated profit and loss account and the consolidated balance sheet of Amer were approved. Also, the members of the board of directors and the company's president were discharged from liability for the financial year 2005. A dividend of Euro 0.50 per share (USD $0.60) for the 2005 financial year was approved to shareholders of record on March 20, 2006, and be paid on March 27, 2006.
 
According to the nominations committee's proposal, the number of board members was confirmed to be six and Ilkka Brotherus, Felix Björklund, Tuomo Lähdesmäki, Timo Maasilta, Anssi Vanjoki and Roger Talermo (president and CEO) were recommended for re-election as members of the board until the end of 2007.
 
In its first meeting immediately following the general meeting, the board elected Vanjoki as chairman and Brotherus as vice chairman. Vanjoki, Björklund and Lähdesmäki were elected as members of the remuneration committee. Brotherus, Maasilta and Björklund were elected as members of the nomination committee. Lähdesmäki, Brotherus and Maasilta were elected as members of the audit committee.
 
PricewaterhouseCoopers Oy was elected to act as an auditor of the company, with Göran Lindell put in charge.
 
Sara Lee holds forecast for annual sales growth
With a range of brands that includes Duofold, Sara Lee Corp. (NYSE: SLE) said it is holding its forecast for sales growth over the next four years amid plans to retool its business during an analyst conference in New York,

L.M. de Kool, Sara Lee's executive vice president and chief financial and administrative officer, shared with the audience the company's achievements against each of the transformation's three pillars: organizing business operations around consumers, customers and geographic markets; achieving operational efficiency to fund growth; and focusing the portfolio.

"In just 13 months, we have made significant progress toward transforming Sara Lee into a world-class, integrated, growth-oriented consumer products company," said de Kool. "We have the right people and the right plan in place to successfully achieve our goal of delivering long-term, consistent results for our shareholders."

de Kool reiterated that the company anticipates sales growing at a compound annual rate of between 4 percent and 5 percent per year leading up to fiscal 2010, which is when the company expects to complete the transformation.

In addition, de Kool said Sara Lee still anticipates a 12 percent operating margin by fiscal 2010, driven by margin growth in all of the company's business segments, especially North American retail meats, North American retail bakery and international bakery.

"During our transformation, Sara Lee will continue to return value to its shareholders by paying a healthy dividend, repurchasing $2 billion in stock and, over the next two years, repaying more than $1.5 billion of debt," added de Kool. "And, we are confident in our ability to generate the cash needed to support those commitments."

Oakley to acquire The Optical Shop of Aspen
With a renewed focus on its optics business, Oakley (NYSE:OO) signed a definitive agreement to acquire all of the outstanding stock of privately held OSA Holding, Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, The Optical Shop of Aspen, a retailer of luxury eyewear. Included in this acquisition are The Optical Shop of Aspen's 14 retail locations.

The Optical Shop of Aspen currently has stores in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, New Mexico and Missouri, and will operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of Oakley. After the completion of the merger, Larry Sands, founder of The Optical Shop of Aspen, will continue as CEO of OSA and maintain independent ownership and operation of OSA International, a separate wholesale company.

Specific terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The company expects the acquisition to be closed during the second quarter of 2006. Oakley expects the acquisition to be slightly accretive to earnings in 2006.

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