The Calvin Klein brand might be getting another sibling, especially since the tightening credit market has given some breathing room to strategic buyers such as Phillips-Van Heusen Corp.
“This is the time to make acquisitions that in the future pay significant dividends,” said Emanuel Chirico, chairman and chief executive officer, on a conference call Tuesday to Wall Street analysts to discuss fourth-quarter results.
PVH is no stranger to tough financial markets. The apparel firm reached a deal to buy Calvin Klein in December 2002, at a time when it was difficult to find financing.
Credit has been harder to come by since the fallout of the subprime mortgage market that caused banks to tighten up lending as they looked to their own balance sheets. The dramatic fall of investment bank Bear Stearns, which is set to be sold to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., has only made Wall Street even more wary.
As nasty as the lending environment might be, it could be a time of real opportunity for firms with available cash and access to credit, both of which PVH said it has.
On Monday, the company said fourth-quarter profits rose 13.4 percent to $30.3 million as sales increased 4.9 percent to $584.5 million. The Calvin Klein licensing business was the driver, with operating income up 37 percent on a 14.2 percent rise in revenues to $70 million.
Acquisitions will continue to be the company’s “first priority,” said Chirico, noting the company has a strong balance sheet and the ability to borrow.
“Chaotic times are the times when good companies do acquisitions that can really fuel growth going forward,” he said.
Sellers are also said to have been bringing prices down recently. “It’ll start to flush out over the next three to six months,” he said.
The company did not elaborate on what type of acquisitions it might consider.
“It’s a great time because they are strategic buyers and now the competition has faded away so far as financial buyers go,” said analyst Jennifer Black. “They could make an acquisition, say $200 million to $300 million, as large as that.”
Black said the company has been measured in its acquisitions, citing Calvin Klein and, more recently, tie maker Superba.
“Instead of going out and buying tons of companies, they’ve just chosen wisely,” said Black.