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Liz Claiborne Unveils Plan to Cut Costs By $190 Million A Year

U.S. apparel company Liz Claiborne is seeking to divest itself of 16 of its 36 apparel brands, representing $800 million of its $5 billion in annual revenue as part of a broader plan to reinvigorate its sales and cut costs by $190 million a year.

The news comes ahead of an analyst meeting Wednesday where the company will discuss its long-term strategy.

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As part of this, Liz Clairbone tightened its full-year guidance, saying it expects EPS of between $1.90 to $2.00, with adjusted net sales expected to be flat to down by low-single digits compared with last year.

Analysts are expecting a profit of $2.06 a share for the year, according to a Thomson Financial poll.

The guidance excludes 6 cents in costs in the first quarter and 14 cents to 16 cents in costs related to the restructuring. Guidance also excludes any additional costs or additional income or expenses related to its strategic review of its brands.

In the second quarter, it expects adjusted EPS of between 22 cents and 24 cents and adjusted net sales to be flat compared with last year.

For 2008, Liz Claiborne predicted EPS of $2.35 to $2.50 a share on sales of between $4.2 billion and $4.3 billion. Analysts had estimated earnings of $2.34 a share on revenue of $5.12 billion.

"Over the long-term, the company expects to achieve annual revenue growth in the high single digits, operating margin in the mid-teens, EPS growth in the high-teens, and a return on invested capital in the high-teens," the company said.

Under the reorganization, the company expects to generate cost savings of $100 million in 2008, and $45 million each in 2009 and 2010.

"These savings, which will drive significant operating margin expansion beginning in 2008, will be realized through the streamlining of corporate management, consolidation of organizational structure and fewer layers in our Partnered Brands, cost rationalization in our supply chain and reduction in corporate overhead throughout the company," Liz Claiborne said.

Liz Claiborne, which has been suffering from a downturn in department-store sales, said the brands under review include C&C California, Dana Buchman, Ellen Tracy and Emma James, among others. The company has hired Centerview Partners, a boutique investment bank, to sell or license the brands to strategic or financial buyers.

In addition, the company plans to aggressively expand the specialty retail store base of its Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Lucky Brand Jeans and Mexx brands.

This year, the company will reduce some 600 to 800 positions, or about 7% to 9% of its non-retail based work force.

Liz Claiborne shares closed at $37.23 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.