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Business

Puma Leaps Ahead

Germany's second-largest sportswear group looked back on a trailblazing performance in full-year 2001 and promised its shareholders more of the same for World Cup year 2002.

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Sales are up

Puma AG, Germany's second-largest sportswear group, on Thursday looked back on a trailblazing performance in full-year 2001 and promised its shareholders more of the same for 2002.

The company's results for 2001 more than fulfilled investors' and analysts' expectations. Full-year sales growth came in at 30 percent – ahead of the expected 28 percent – pushing full-year sales to 598.1 million euros. Earnings before interest and taxes rose 160 percent to 59 million euros. Net earnings came in at 39.7 million euros, ahead of the 32.4 million euros forecast by analysts.

Industry observers responded to the figures with enthusiasm. Analysts at WestLB Panmure, for example, described the group's data on incoming orders as "sensational".

The group's order book is now fuller than it has been for six years, with orders in hand up 55.2% on the year to 360.1 million euros. The company said its shareholders will see "clear growth in sales and earnings" this year, but it gave no details of its full-year targets. Chief Executive Jochen Zeit will provide a more detailed forecast in mid-March at the earliest.

Analysts said the 2001 figures would lead them to revise up their 2002 forecasts for the group. One boost to the group's business will be the World Cup soccer tournament in Japan and Korea. Four of the national teams that have qualified for the tournament are sponsored by Puma.

Almost all analysts issued buy recommendations in respect of the stock, saying even last year's 170 percent rise in the share price had failed to exhaust its upward potential. On Thursday, the shares – which are included in the M-Dax of Germany's 70 leading mid-cap stocks – closed up 6.19 percent at 40.30 euros.

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