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S&P Upgrades VF to ‘Stable’

Strong operating performance, debt reduction noted.

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services Wednesday moved VF Corp.’s outlook back to “stable” from “negative” based on its strong performance in 2012 and its ability to control debt in the wake of the 2011 acquisition of Timberland.

The company’s A-minus credit rating was affirmed.

The Greensboro, N.C.-based apparel giant was switched to a “negative” outlook from “stable” following the agreement to buy Timberland for about $2 billion in June 2011.

“The outlook revision reflects VF’s improved credit metrics following good operating performance in fiscal 2012 and debt reduction with the company’s substantial cash flow generation,” said S&P credit analyst Linda Phelps. “We believe VF’s well diversified operating platform and conservative financial policy will continue to support growth in conjunction with strong credit metrics. We expect operating performance to remain relatively steady, particularly as the integration of the large Timberland acquisition is now substantially complete.”

In the fiscal year ended Dec. 29, VF reduced long-term debt to $1.43 billion from $1.83 billion at the end of fiscal 2011. Net income rose 22.3 percent to $1.09 billion on a 15 percent increase in revenues to $10.88 billion.

Phelps’ report cited S&P’s view that VF “will continue to have good market positions in outdoor and action sports and jeanswear, a portfolio of well-recognized brand names, consistently good operating performance and diversification by distribution channel to support a strong business profile.”

The company is currently conducting discovery after revealing in January that it was interested in making a bid for Australia’s Billabong International Ltd. with Altamont Capital Partners. VF’s interest is in the Billabong brand and Altamont’s in “other brands and related assets.”

Shares of VF Wednesday rose $2.83, or 1.8 percent, to $160.86 in New York Stock Exchange trading.