By and  on April 6, 2007

Shares in Puma spiked in trading Thursday, fanned by speculation that Europe's second-largest sporting goods maker was the target of an imminent takeover by PPR.

PPR, the French retail and luxury conglomerate that owns Gucci Group, declined to comment. A spokesman for Puma also declined comment.

Rumors have circulated for some time that Puma could fall prey to a buyout. Puma's shares jumped 10.5 percent in trading Thursday to close at 315 euros, or $415.80 at current exchange.

Puma has been one of the fastest-growing activewear companies over the last decade. Chief executive officer Jochen Zeitz has turned the brand into a hot fashion label while maintaining Puma's performance characteristics.

The most recent example of the dual nature of the brand is its decision to hoist itself into sailing, far away from Puma's historic roots in running.

As the German active lifestyle company enters the Volvo Ocean Race 2008-09 with its own boat and as the race's official supplier and licensee of replica merchandise, Puma is on the helm of launching a women's and men's sailing apparel, accessories and footwear line for spring 2008.

Expanding on its Formula 1 partnership and the golf collection that was launched last year, Puma continues its growth plan by entering another premium category with sailing.

"We wanted to make sure the perspective we went after was this adventure-oriented, bigger-than-life race," said Antonio Bertone, group functional director of brand and marketing for Puma AG. "We didn't want it to be like dinghies. We have this great muse; this machine that jumps through 30-foot waves that will go around the world."

Known as the "Everest of sailing," the race begins in October 2008 in Alicante, Spain, and ends in June 2009 in the Baltic. The Puma racing team will be skippered by Ken Read, an American who helmed America's Cup programs in 2000 and 2003 and was twice named "United States Rolex Yachtsman of the Year." Puma plans to unveil the boat in a few weeks in Boston.

Puma has not released price points for the line, which will balance technical performance pieces with sportswear, but said it would wholesale at a higher price than its traditional lifestyle collection, which goes from about $20 to $40 for jackets. The sailing line will be carried in all of Puma's doors, plus, Puma hopes, on the premium floors of department stores. Bertone declined to project volume for the line, but joked, "There's a lot of ocean."We always like to enter a sport that no one would expect us to be in, and then do it in a totally new way," Bertone said. "We are trying to change the overall aesthetic of what is perceived as nautical. We want to put our Puma funk on it to attract a younger audience to the ocean."

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