By  on February 9, 2009

Columbia Sportswear Co. posted double-digit declines in both fourth-quarter and full-year profits.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, profits were down 59.4 percent to $18.6 million, or 55 cents a diluted share, from $45.7 million, or $1.26, in the year-ago period. The results include a $24.7 million pretax, noncash charge, or 46 cents a share after tax, for the writedown of intangible assets in connection with the 2006 purchase of the Pacific Trail and Montrail brands.

Sales fell 5.8 percent to $354.9 million from $376.8 million. Sales in the U.S. were down 3 percent, while sales in Europe, the Middle East and Africa fell 21 percent and sales in Canada were down 12 percent. The declines were offset by a 6 percent gain in sales in the Latin America/Asian Pacific region.

In 2008, profits fell 34.2 percent to $95 million, or $2.74 a diluted share, from $144.5 million, or $3.96, from 2007. Sales dipped 2.8 percent to $1.32 billion from $1.36 billion.

Tim Boyle, Columbia's president and chief executive officer, boasted that the company "returned over $100 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends and ended the year with cash and short-term investments totaling over $250 million and zero debt."

He said the firm is pulling back on store-opening plans and is adjusting marketing and advertising budgets due to the "accelerated deterioration of the global economy since September." The opening of a branded store on Chicago's Michigan Avenue this fall won't be affected by the revised plans.

The company also will continue opening outlet stores since they provide a "more profitable channel for inventory liquidation," Boyle said.

The company said it expects first-quarter sales to decline 10 to 12 percent. It also projects first-quarter earnings per share at between 4 and 8 cents, compared with 56 cents in last year's quarter.

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