Shares of Columbia Sportswear Co. shot up nearly 6 percent Friday after the firm reported double-digit increases in its first-quarter profits and wholesale backlog and raised its quarterly dividend.

This story first appeared in the May 2, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Net income for the three months ended March 31 was up 38.4 percent to $12.8 million, or 37 cents a diluted share, 8 cents higher than the consensus estimate of analysts carried by Yahoo Finance. Year-ago profits came to $9.2 million, or 27 cents.

Sales rose 10.9 percent to $333.1 million from $300.4 million in the 2010 quarter. Sales in the U.S. were up 11.1 percent to $192.5 million, 57.8 percent of the total, and sales of the Columbia brand were up 7.6 percent to $288.1 million, 86.5 percent of the total. Sales of the Mountain Hardwear and Sorel brands picked up 23.8 percent and 157.5 percent, respectively, to $31.7 million and $10.3 million.

Fueling the expansion of profit at a faster rate than revenues, gross margin hit 44.9 percent of sales, a 250 basis-point improvement over the comparable 2010 quarter.

Columbia’s wholesale backlog, a barometer of its outerwear and other businesses for fall, stood at $860.8 million, 18.7 percent above the year-ago level. Tim Boyle, president and chief executive officer of the Portland, Ore.-based firm, said the expansion of the backlog “included increases in each of our four major brands, geographic regions and product categories and show a favorable shift toward our innovative products.”

He cited the Omni-Heat as a standout, with advance orders more than double from fall 2010.

Columbia increased its quarterly dividend 10 percent, to 22 cents a share from 20 cents, payable on June 2 to shareholders of record May 19.

In its current second quarter, its lowest volume period of the year, the company projects an operating loss of between $22 million and $24 million with about a 200 basis-point drop in gross margin and up to a 100 point hike in selling, general and administrative costs as a percentage of net sales. However, for the full-year sales are expected to increase 14 to 16 percent and gross margins to expected rise about 100 basis points.

Results were reported Thursday evening. On Friday, shares rose $3.74, or 5.8 percent, to end the week at $67.99.

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