Outdoor financials: Puma considers acquisitions in outdoor, lifestyle markets

French group PPR, majority shareholder of Puma, is looking to expand into the lifestyle and outdoor sector and has directed Puma’s CEO to hunt for acquisitions and build a new unit based around the German brand.
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Puma considers acquisitions in outdoor, lifestyle markets

French group PPR, majority shareholder of Puma, is looking to expand into the lifestyle and outdoor sector and has directed Puma’s CEO to hunt for acquisitions and build a new unit based around the German brand.

The directive, it said, is part of PPR's plan to move away from retail, to focus solely on luxury and lifestyle and shed its conglomerate discount in terms of valuation. It also anticipates that the new sports and lifestyle division will generate higher sales than PPR's luxury unit Gucci Group.

"The sport and lifestyle division will be, in my view, more important in size, in turnover, because we are operating in mass-market segments, but not in terms of profit," PPR CEO Francois-Henri Pinault said in a joint conference call with Puma CEO Jochen Zeitz.

PPR's luxury brands had sales of EUR 3.4 billion (USD $4.75 billion) in 2009, compared with just under EUR 2.5 billion (USD $3.4 billion) for Puma (PUMG.DE).

The parent company said it would not look to buy any brands that would directly compete with Puma's products, saying Puma will remain the main priority in terms of potential for growth.

Analysts said PPR's return to the acquisition trail is a sign that the markets are recovering. Also, as there is not much to acquire in the luxury world, there will be more acquisition opportunities in the lifestyle and outdoor sector, sources said.

Possible brands mentioned by analysts in the past include Quiksilver, Billabong and Timberland, among others.

The company, though, will not make any major acquisitions until after it has disposed of Fnac and Conforama, its retail businesses.

Zeitz, who has been at the helm of Puma for 18 years, will assume his role as head of the PPR unit once a new CEO for Puma has been found. Both internal and external candidates will be considered, and Puma has not set a time limit for finding a new CEO.

Puma will also change its legal structure to that of a European corporation and be renamed Puma SE, with only one board to be chaired by Zeitz.

--Compiled by Wendy Geister

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