By  on January 3, 2005

MILAN — While there’s plenty of uncertainty about the creative future of Jil Sander without its namesake designer, a clearer picture is emerging about the Prada subsidiary’s finances.

Hamburg-based Jil Sander Group’s 2003 balance sheet, quietly published last year to comply with stock market regulations, provides fresh figures on the size of the company’s losses and debts. It also states that retail sales were “unsatisfactory” and that members of the supervisory board didn’t get performance-pegged compensation because financial targets weren’t reached.

Among the report’s most salient details are that Jil Sander’s total debt stood at 120.8 million euros, or $164.4 million at current exchange, at the end of 2003. It also states that Prada injected 30 million euros, or $40.8 million, in the German company and explains how Jil Sander made a 6.9 million euro, or $9.4 million, capital gain from the sale of its Milan store on Via Verri as part of a Prada property spin-off.

Jil Sander’s management signed off on the numbers in March 2004, eight months before the namesake designer left her label for the second time in four years, clashing once again with Prada management and prompting the fashion world to question just how viable the brand will be without her. Last month, Prada chief executive officer Patrizio Bertelli told an Italian newspaper he didn’t rule out selling Jil Sander and another struggling business, Helmut Lang, to help pay off Prada’s debts, but the company has since restated its original line that those businesses aren’t for sale.

Back in March, Jil Sander issued a press release showing that its 2003 net loss widened to 28.4 million euros, or $38.6 million, from 26.3 million euros, or $35.7 million, and sales dropped 9.4 percent to 125.7 million euros, or $171.1 million. It blamed the higher loss on a cocktail of the Iraq war, SARS, slumping tourism and a strong euro. But the full balance sheet, which Jil Sander is legally required to publish since a small fraction of its shares are still traded on the German stock exchange, actually discloses details about what comes between those top- and bottom-line figures.

The annual report notes a “strong recovery” in orders in the first part of 2004 and boasts an average 30 percent jump in fall-winter 2004-2005 orders — but it also underscores the fundamental importance of Sander’s homecoming. The document touts Sander’s return as providing the “prerequisites for long-term recovery of the Group.”

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