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Tiffany Montgomery
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VF CEO on acquisitions and more

By Tiffany Montgomery
October 24, 2008 6:14 AM

I had a chance this morning to read the transcript from the VF Corp. third quarter conference call last week.

You'll find a link to the previous story I wrote about VF's third quarter earnings, which has the basic information from the press release, under the "Related Links" label to the left.

On the conference call, company executives shared lots of interesting information, including a comment from CEO Eric Wiseman about possible acquisitions.

VFEricWisemanMug"On the acquisition front, I think there may be some opportunities that come up from good brands that are struggling to make it through this liquidity crisis right now. We may have some opportunity there as well."

Remember, VF owns a wide range of brands in different sectors, from Wrangler jeans to The North Face. Wiseman did not say what types of acquisitions the company was looking to make.

VF has plenty of resources. The company said it has no liquidity issues and cash flow is strong. At the end of the year, VF expects to have more than the $226 million in cash it currently has on its balance sheet. It also has $1.3 billion in lines of credit.

Other interesting information:

Retail: Vans, The North Face, Kipling, Napapijri, John Varvatos, Lucy and Lee stores recorded double digit revenue increases in the third quarter. Full-priced company stores recorded upper single-digit comps gains.

VF opened 20 stores in the third quarter led by Vans, The North Face, Napapijri and 7 For All Mankind. In the fourth quarter, VF will open another 30-plus stores, bringing its full-year total to 90 new stores.

Operating margins: Improved 80 basis points in the Outdoor Coalition, which includes brands such as Vans, Reef and The North Face.

Inventory: VF is watching inventory closely and at year end expects inventory levels to be only a couple percentage points higher than 2007. While retailers are being cautious, VF has not seen material cancellation of orders.

Revenue: VF expects total revenue to be up 3 percent to 4 percent in the fourth quarter, less than its 8 percent projection. The shortfall is from the stronger dollar (2 percentage points), and the remainder from the tough market conditions.

Advertising: VF will spend 15 percent to 20 percent more on advertising in the fourth quarter vs. the same period last year. Analysts asked lots of questions about that decision, but company executives said it was a great time to invest in its brands and gain market share.

Spring bookings: The company's stronger lifestyle brands are doing better than VF's other brands in terms of spring bookings.

Discounting: An analyst asked about 7 For All Mankind jeans being at club stores. Wiseman said VF did not sell the product to the clubs and it is investigating how it got there. If it was a (retail) customer who did that, "They will no longer be a customer of the brand," he said.

Europe: Western Europe is slow and conditions mirror the U.S., though revenues from the Outdoor Coalition in Western Europe rose double digits in the third quarter.

Overall conditions in Italy, Spain and the UK deteriorated in the third quarter and Germany and France showed signs of slowing.

Russia: Wiseman said long term, Russia "will be terrific for us." The company is investing behind VF's Outdoor and Jeans coalitions there.


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