VF on Acquisitions Hunt, and Tommy Could Be in Its Sights

As it posted first-quarter results, VF Corp. said it expects acquisitions to supply most of its top-line annual growth of 6 percent in coming years.

Mackey McDonald VF Corp

Mackey McDonald, VF Corp.

Photo By WWD Staff

NEW YORK — Its inability to corral Calvin Klein Industries last year hasn’t soured VF Corp. on acquisitions one iota.

In fact, the company said Tuesday as it announced first-quarter results, it expects future acquisitions to supply the majority of top line annual growth of 6 percent in the years ahead. And it didn’t close the door on the possibility that such an acquisition or expansion move could involve Calvin Klein or another high-profile American designer, Tommy Hilfiger.

Mackey McDonald, chairman and chief executive officer, told attendees at the company’s annual meeting Tuesday in Greensboro, N.C., that the company’s priority is "growth," with a long-term target of 6 percent. That 6 percent, according to the company, will come from internal growth of between 2 percent to 3 percent, and from new acquisitions contributing between 3 percent and 4 percent.

Building on speculation already rampant in the marketplace about Warnaco Group and Tommy Hilfiger, a VF spokeswoman told WWD, "We are actively looking. The company is concentrating on [acquisitions with] high returns in our profitable areas, which are jeanswear, intimate apparel and our outdoor businesses."

She added, "We remain interested in a lifestyle sportswear brand that could cover multiple areas."

As reported, the company had been interested in acquiring Calvin Klein Inc., but lost that opportunity when the designer firm was snapped up last year by Phillips-Van Heusen. Warnaco Group holds the rights, as licensee, to Calvin Klein jeans and owns the label for underwear outright.

One lifestyle brand with offerings in jeanswear and intimate apparel, and understood to be investigating strategic alternatives, is Tommy Hilfiger Corp. VF manufactures Tommy Hilfiger intimates under license. The VF spokeswoman declined comment on the company’s interest in Tommy.

The company on Tuesday posted first-quarter results that bested Wall Street’s median expectations by 9 cents, coming in at 83 cents a diluted share, and reiterated its expectations that 2003 earnings per share would be between 5 percent and 10 percent higher than in 2002, where EPS from continuing operations were $3.38, excluding restructuring charges of 14 cents per share.

As for timing, she said, "We are hopeful to have something that we can do this year, but it will have to be the right opportunity, the right price and the right time."
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