• Q3 earnings of EUR67.9m
  • Company reports "most difficult market"
  • 5.5% sales decline

German sporting goods firm Puma has reported lower sales and earnings during the third quarter, as it looks towards this summer's football World Cup to restore growth.

Puma said third quarter net earnings totaled EUR67.9m (US$101.8m), versus EUR89.0m in the same period last year, a decline of 23.6%.

Consolidated sales for the quarter were down 5.5% to EUR673m.

However, the company did report a strong reduction in inventories and improvement in net cash position.

Jochen Zeitz, Puma CEO, said: "The business environment has continued to be as challenging as we had expected, which resulted in a decrease in sales and profits.

"Despite this most difficult market, we generated a profit in all three quarters so far and we expect to be profitable in Q4 again.

"We hope to see first signs of an improving business environment in the run up to the Football World Cup in South Africa, where Puma through its strong ties with African Football has a home field advantage."

Footwear sales were down by 13.0% at EUR358.7m, and apparel sales dropped 5.2% to EUR238.1m in the quarter.

At the end of the first nine months, consolidated sales were down by 2.0% on a currency-neutral basis but increased by 0.4% in Euro terms to EUR1.9bn, the company said.

Puma said a re-engineering and restructuring programme, which resulted in a one-time charge of EUR110m in the first quarter, will continue as planned and should be largely finalised by the end of 2009.

Considering the restructuring charge, EBIT for the first nine months totaled EUR165.1m compared to EUR313.2m last year.

Click here to view Puma's full third quarter earnings statement.