Hanesbrands chairman and CEO Richard Noll has revealed that the apparel company may look to invest in acquisitions to drive growth and strengthen its business portfolio.

Speaking to investors on Tuesday (5 February), Noll said: "We purchased Gear a couple of years ago, that acquisition continues to play out fairly well. We're overall pleased with its integration into our company and its long-term prospects.

"There can be other things such as that, that's in our core categories that we can use to leverage our global supply chain, reduce cost and justify any premium that we may pay. And we'd also have a goal in mind of any type of acquisition where it would be relatively quickly accretive."

If these opportunities arise, they could add value to the company, Noll said. "So, you'll see a mixture of those things I think play out over time," he added.

The news comes after the US-based sock, T-shirt and underwear maker ended fiscal 2012 with a near doubling in net profit following a reduction in debt and its exit from under-performing businesses. Profit jumped to US$80.4m from $41m the year before, while sales rose 5% to $1.15bn from $4.53bn the same period the prior year.

Looking back on last year, COO Gerald Evans said: "When we began the year, we had four clear goals. First, to manage our pricing to navigate through the cotton bubble. Second, to leverage our strong brands and innovation pipeline to accelerate growth and expand margins in our core categories. Third, to de-risk our business by exiting the unprofitable segments of our US image wear category and our European operation.

"And our fourth and final goal was to optimise the performance of our supply chain to deliver additional cost savings and operate with lower inventory. We accomplished them all. And our momentum in the second half of the year demonstrates the full potential of our efforts."

Men's underwear saw double-digit growth in the quarter and mid-single digits during the year, while inner wear sales were up 3% for the full year, despite a $40m headwind from JC Penney. Excluding that decline, inner wear sales grew 5% for the year.

Meanwhile, outerwear sales rose 6% in the quarter and full-year. "Outerwear's full year profitability was adversely affected by cotton inflation in the first half of the year, but showed substantial improvement in the back half. We expect to see continued improvements here as we recognize lower cotton cost and realise the benefits of our strategy to drive our strong brands with a more profitable mix with a goal to have outer wear reach double-digit operating margins."

Hanesbrands has also paid down $750m of long-term bond debt over the last 13 months and brought its long-term debt to EBITDA ratio down to 2.5 times. CFO Rick Moss said: "At the end of 2013, we will have paid off $1 billion of debt in just 24 months all while successfully navigating through unprecedented cotton inflation."

Innovation
Innovation has and will continue to play a big role within Hanesbrands' long-term strategy, Evans emphasised. "Having come through the past couple of years and all the challenges in cotton pricing, our first focus now is to really reinvest in our brands and our innovations," he said.

Strong brands and innovations drive sales, Noll reiterated. "The one thing we learned coming through the past couple of years is that, strong brands and innovations are what drives sales," he said. The company revealed it has a "pipeline full of innovations" going forward. "Because we really do believe that is the way to drive growth," Noll added. 

"To wrap up, 2012 was a very successful year under very challenging circumstances. And we are coming out stronger, more innovative, and more profitable. I believe we are only seeing the beginning of our true earnings power. And I look forward to a successful 2013," Noll added.