By  on March 14, 2008

Goodbye goodwill.

Liz Claiborne Inc. took whopping goodwill write-downs of $451 million in the quarter ending Dec. 29, which drove the group to a fourth-quarter loss of $435.7 million, or $4.55 a share, compared with net profits of $73.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2006.

"The company had accumulated significant goodwill balances in this segment in recent years resulting from its focus on acquisitions during that period," said Claiborne, which has spent the last year reviewing its brand portfolio. "Actual and projected performance and cash flows in this segment, as well as the impact of the sale or planned sale, licensing or closure of the brands under strategic review, no longer supported this goodwill balance."

Excluding the write-down for the brands the company has sold and other primarily wholesale brands it continues to own, results for the quarter were consistent with the losses the firm warned of a month ago.

At that time, Claiborne estimated losses per share would be in the range of 90 cents to $1.

Sales for the quarter slipped 3 percent to $1.21 billion from $1.25 billion, as 20 percent losses in partnered brands offset the 18 percent gains in the direct brands segment, which includes Juicy Couture.

"The fourth quarter proved to be very difficult for our partnered brands segment," said chief executive officer William L. McComb. "We made great progress managing inventories, but markdown pressure was significant. Our sales to Macy's department stores now represent less than 10 percent of our total net sales, and we have taken significant steps to improve this business by announcing the design initiatives with Isaac Mizrahi for the Liz Claiborne brand and John Bartlett for the Claiborne men's business, both for 2009. We've also taken action to improve the sales and earnings engine in partnered brands for 2009 through the announcement of the Dana Buchman launch at Kohl's."

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