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Maidenform Brands, Inc. (NYSE:MFB)

F3Q08 Earnings Call

November 5, 2008 8:30 am ET

Executives

Felise Glantz Kissell - Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Development

Maurice S. Reznik - President, Chief Executive Officer, Director

Christopher W. Vieth - Chief Financial Officer, Chief Operating Officer, Executive Vice President

Analysts

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

Omar Saad - Credit Suisse Securities LLC

Eric Beder - Brean Murray, Carret & Co.

Jody Kevin Kane - Sidoti & Company LLC

[Mimi Bartel - Teltia Advisory Group]

Operator

Welcome to the Maidenform Brands’ third quarter 2008 earnings conference call and webcast. This conference call is being recorded. Following the conclusion of today’s discussion, the Maidenform team will be taking your questions.

I’d now like to turn the call over to Felise Glantz Kissell, Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Development.

Felise Glantz Kissell

I’m sure that you’ve read our third quarter press release issued early this morning. To provide additional insight into our performance for the third quarter and give an overall update on our business, we have with us today our CEO Maurice Reznik and COO and CFO Chris Vieth. Maurice will first provide a strategic review of our business. Chris will then review our financial performance and expectations for the remainder of the year before taking your questions.

Before we begin I would like to first read our Safe Harbor statement. Statements made on this conference call and in the company’s press release other than those containing historical information should be considered forward-looking statements and actual results may differ materially. For a detailed discussion of factors that could cause actual results to vary from those contained in the forward-looking statements, please refer to the Risk Factors section in Maidenform’s most recent annual report on Form 10K filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

With that I will now turn the call over to Maurice.

Maurice S. Reznik

I begin today’s call with some obvious observations on the economy and specifically what we are doing to effectively manage our business in the midst of these challenges. The financial markets are in flux, consumer confidence is uncertain at best, and retail is facing turbulent times.

At Maidenform we are focused and committed to driving results based on our long-term strategic initiatives some of which began to take shape in the third quarter. Our dedication to brand equity, innovation and fiscal conservatism is a strong combination that enables us to win even in this economy. Our business model is built on branded innovative differentiated basic replenishable products that appeal to a wide consumer base across all channels of distribution. It is a formula that has and will continue to build market share for our brands.

Reviewing our third quarter we are pleased with our performance as we build and deliver upon our strategic goals. We generate substantial cash flow that provides us the ability to prudently invest for long-term profitable growth and position our company well for future success.

EPS results in the quarter came in ahead of expectations at $0.36 inclusive of $0.04 per share associated with startup costs related to our new intimate apparel license for the Donna Karan and DKNY brands and an additional $0.02 per share associated with the Mervyns and Boscov’s bankruptcy. This compares to EPS of $0.32 for the third quarter of ’07. Excluding these special items, EPS grew 31% in the quarter versus last year.

In the third quarter our sales increased 12.4% to $112.6 million with wholesale net sales up 15% to $94.9 million. This solid performance was driven by growth in our branded sales that were up 20% in the quarter and now +1% year-to-date.

Additionally we continue to leverage one of our core competencies, Shapewear, across all channels of distribution both internationally and domestically. We are leaders in this business and as reflected in our results with a 41% increase in the category for the quarter bringing us up 27% year-to-date. It is also worth noting that our brands and strength of product in the Shapewear category command higher prices even in this climate.

In department stores and national chains, sales increased by 10.6% to $57.3 million. This increase was primarily due to the previously announced shift of approximately $6 million from the second quarter to the third quarter of 2008. Despite the headwinds in this channel we had strong retail sales in our Shapewear brands driven by Flexees and Control It and continued growth of our full figure brand Lilyette.

We also benefited from the ongoing replenishment from the launch of Luleh this year. The Luleh brand is just one example of the company’s ability to develop and implement strategic partnerships with leading retailers.

In the mass channel our brands continue to gain significant share as sales increased 39.2% to $28.4 million. Our growth was driven by an expanded assortment of our Sweet Nothings brand in Shapewear and new branded seamless program with an existing warehouse club customer and the ongoing replenishment from our newly-created Inspirations brand.

The other channel was down 10.7% to $9.2 million largely due to reduced sales to off priced by retailers.

We posted positive results in our international business in which sales increased 17.2% to $11.6 million with increased sales in Canada, Russia, Sweden and Mexico which more than offset soft sales in the UK market. For the quarter our international business made up 10.3% of our sales compared to 9.9% a year ago.

Retail sales were unchanged at $17.7 million in the quarter with comp door sales down 3.3% at our outlet stores. Our Internet business which is a key focus area going forward posted sales of 50% to $1.5 million. As of the end of Q3 we had 76 outlet stores versus 78 stores in the same period a year ago. Overall performance in this segment was affected by reduced traffic in the outlet centers.

For the company’s fourth quarter we’re planning for a sales increase in the mid-single-digit percentage range which would provide second half top line results in the high single digits and full year results of flat to down 1%. We do expect and have taken into account a more promotional mix of business and continued focus on reduced inventories. Chris will elaborate in more detail in our full year guidance expectations.

Our top line momentum will continue into 2009 fueled in part by our transformational patent pending Total Solutions launch as well as sustained momentum in the mass channel. Total Solution is a truly revolutionary bra construction that lifts, shapes and perfects a woman’s figure. This launch will be supported with extensive PR and media initiatives. We look forward to updating you with further details on our next call.

We will also continue to keep you posted on our progress with the Donna Karan and DKNY brands which we’ll be launching in January of 2009 both domestically and internationally.

As we continue to position our company for long-term growth we have strengthened the management team with Pat Burns, our new VP of Sales and Marketing. Pat joins us with significant experience in consumer products, intimate apparel and with our customer base driving results and cultivating strong relationships throughout his career.

Before I turn the call over to Chris, I want to express management’s confidence in the company’s ability to effectively compete and win even in this climate. We are well positioned with our staple of diverse brands, product innovation and unique core competencies. Additionally we’ll continue to employ strong disciplines around margin management, SG&A expense and cash utilization.

As advised on our last call, we are currently fine tuning our long-term strategic plan. We are evaluating potential domestic and international investment opportunities and plans to enhance our brands and products to drive incremental growth in sales and profits. It is our intention to share the highlights of these plans when finalized.

Thank you for your interest in Maidenform. I will now turn the call over to Chris Vieth, our Chief Operating Officer and CFO.

Christopher W. Vieth

Before I get into our results, I want to mention that this will be the last call with the company for Felise Kissell, our Vice President of Investor Relations and Corporate Development. Felise, who is moving on to a bigger role with Home Shopping Network, has been a terrific partner to all of us on the Maidenform team as well I am sure to many of you. We will miss her both personally and professionally and we wish her the very best. We’ve begun recruiting to replace Felise and I’ll be taking on her responsibilities until the position is filled.

Turning to the quarter and our results, we’re pleased to have exceeded expectations with solid double-digit gains in sales and EPS. Our channel diversification strategy is working and our brands and products are faring well despite the pressures in the market place. We are a company deeply focused on creativity and innovation and executing that is driving our business in 2008 while simultaneously creating a healthy pipeline of new products and new business for 2009 and beyond.

That said, the retail environment is difficult for many of our customers, forward visibility is clouded, and we’re arguably headed into a global economic recession. So while we’re aggressively pursuing and winning new business, at the same time we’re carefully controlling everything we can to strengthen our balance sheet and protect our profits while we weather this storm.

Turning to our financial results, reported EPS in the third quarter was $0.36 per share, up 13% over last year’s $0.32 and above street consensus. Our results included startup expenses of $0.04 per share for our Donna Karan initiative and $0.02 per share associated with the July Mervyns and Boscov’s bankruptcies. Excluding these special items, EPS was up 31% over last year. We didn’t incur any additional losses when Mervyns filed for liquidation in October.

Our Donna Karan spending was a penny higher than our $0.03 per share guidance in the quarter on timing of spend. Startup costs will remain at $2.5 million in total for the year or roughly $0.06 per share as we previously announced with about $0.01 per share remaining here in the fourth quarter.

Year-to-date reported EPS totaled $0.95 per share including $0.05 per share for Donna Karan and $0.03 of bad debt, $0.01 in the second quarter and $0.02 in the third quarter as I noted above. This compares to $1.15 per share last year which included $0.09 of gain related to our pension curtailment and deferred financing costs in 2007.

Our consolidated gross margins were down 210 basis points to 38.2% in the third quarter primarily as a result of changes in our channel and in our product mix including an approximate 39% increase in sales to lower margin mass customers and a roughly 11% increase in sales in the higher margin department and chains channel. Year-to-date gross margins decreased about 30 basis points to 38.5% reflecting changes in our channel and in our product mix.

We carefully controlled our costs again this quarter and will continue to do so as we move forward. Our Donna Karan investment spending was roughly $300,000 above our guidance in the quarter due to timing and as we discussed on our last call we incurred about $850,000 of bad debt expense in July associated with the Mervyns and Boscov’s bankruptcies.

Excluding investment in Donna Karan’s startup and the one-time bad debt expense, our SG&A was down about 1% in the third quarter and up only 1% year-to-date. Adding all of that up, our reported operating margins were 13.5% for the third quarter compared to 14.6% in the prior year and reported operating margins were 13% year-to-date versus 16.9% last year.

Our effective tax rate was 40.4% for the third quarter and 41.3% year-to-date. For the full year our 2008 rate is planned about 41% versus 41.9% in 2007. We expect to utilize approximately $10 million of net operating loss carry forwards on our 2008 tax return and as a result of our NOLs our cash tax payable rate will be approximately 37% for 2008.

Turning next to the balance sheet and cash, our net debt at the end of the third quarter was $52 million versus $75 million last year. We expect total cash flow from operations to be $25 million to $35 million for the full year 2008 before Donna Karan initial ramp up expense and we’ve strengthened our cash position while we appropriately manage our balance sheet in this economic environment.

Our capital expenditures totaled $550,000 in the quarter and $1.4 million year-to-date. Our total spend will be $3 million to $4 million in 2008 including fourth quarter infrastructure spending at our North Carolina and Ireland distribution centers and for our retail outlet stores and to construct our Donna Karan showroom. This is down from our $9.5 million original plan for capital as we deferred about $6 million of technology capital for implementing a new ERP system.

We continue to focus efforts on managing the productivity of our overall inventory levels as well as our product cost initiatives to sustain our gross margins. Our inventory position at the end of the quarter was $63 million including in-transit inventories and was roughly $6 million higher than last year due to inventory build for new programs we’ll be delivering here in the fourth quarter. We expect that we’ll end the y ear flat to down modestly from 2007 despite stocking up to service a number of new brands like Luleh, Inspirations and Donna Karan as we carefully manage our inventory levels.

Looking out to the remainder of the year we’re cautious about the environment but confident in our business driving initiatives and in our ability to control our costs and smartly invest our cash. We’re projecting net sales growth consistent with our past guidance but at the lower end as a result of the Mervyns and Boscov’s bankruptcies which will cost us $4 million in lost sales with $3 million falling here in the fourth quarter. That equates to a mid-single-digits percentage increase for net sales in the fourth quarter that will yield full year revenue in a range of flat to down 1%.

Given the continuation of strong sales gains in the mass channel and increased promotional activity in some segments of our business, we’re expecting full year gross margins to settle in a range of 38.2% to 38.4% versus our previous guidance range of 38.5% to 39%.

The retail environment is placing pressure on sales and inventories at a number of our customers and we’re proactively investing with our partners in the fourth quarter to make room for new products and to see that we get off to a solid start in 2009. We expect that channel mix and promotional activity will continue to influence our margin rates; however we’ll mitigate that pressure with ongoing product cost re-engineering initiatives and selective price increases, and we expect to continue to deliver margins in the 38% range for the go-forward.

SG&A expenses will increase in the mid-single-digits over last year including the Donna Karan investment and $600,000 of added CEO retirement costs.

We expect full year EPS to be in a range of $1.17 to $1.21 which takes into account startup costs of $0.06 per share associated with the Donna Karan license, $0.07 per share related to the Mervyns and Boscov’s bankruptcies, $0.03 for bad debt and the balance to loss of sales, and $0.02 for CEO retirement costs.

Before we open up the call to take your questions, I want to reiterate that while we’re planning our business cautiously for 2008 we continue to demonstrate our core strengths that will drive long-term shareholder value. Those strengths are: Identifying and capitalizing on sales growth opportunities, continuously seeking methods to expand our gross margins, employing strict expense management, and generating strong cash flow that provides us with the financial flexibility that will help fuel our future growth.

Proofs of those disciplines and of our financial strength include: We’re tightly controlling costs and our comparable SG&A expense will be up only 1% or 2% over 2007; we generated substantial operating cash flow and EBITDA that we use to fund operations; and we have applied our excess cash flow to increase cash reserves to $37 million at the end of the third quarter.

We maintain conservative leverage and have ample liquidity, our net debt to EBITDA ratio is roughly 0.9 times, and we have access to additional liquidity on our undrawn $50 million revolving line of credit. We allocate capital resources only to those projects and investments that carry an appropriate return and our capital expenditures will total less than $4 million in 2008. We’re carefully managing our inventory investments and our year-end balances will be flat or below 2007 despite the introduction of several new brands and programs and the addition of Donna Karan and DKNY.

Most importantly we continue to innovate with market-leading products that are driving solid top line revenue growth here in 2008 and have us very well positioned to continue that growth into 2009 and beyond.

With that I’ll turn the call back over to Frances to open up the phone line for your questions.

Question-and-Answer

Operator

(Operator Instructions) Our first question comes from Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

I think this is a market week for you guys. Maurice, maybe talk about the retailers attitudes in the last six or eight weeks based on what they’ve seen in their sales trends and how that impacts your core Maidenform sales. Obviously you have some new initiatives but they are being offset by declines in the core business.

Maurice S. Reznik

This market week is focused towards department stores and chains. The mass channel doesn’t come to market week. The general view is that obviously retailers are being conservative in managing their inventories. Some interesting notes though are that some of our businesses are actually doing extremely well and we kind of touched upon them in the call, particularly Shapewear. There’s a lot of excitement about Total Solutions. Retailers are looking for bigger bolder ideas that clearly there is a focus on inventory.

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

What sort of declines should we expect in the Maidenform? Have there been cancelations in the core Maidenform brand?

Maurice S. Reznik

We haven’t experienced cancellations per say but again, on the ongoing replenishment clearly that’s been impacted, there’s more pressure on driving inventories down not just us but in general. The retail numbers will come out tomorrow so we’ll get more insight.

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

The Shapewear roll out, a plus 30 or so for the year is fantastic, where do you see that? Is that pretty much rolled out now or should we see above average growth next year as well?

Maurice S. Reznik

We have targeted Shapewear, it really is a core competency of our brands and of our company, we’re really good at this. We see not just growth organically within our businesses but we see growth also from brand generation and just growing the business in general. Internationally it’s a phenomenal business for us too.

Christopher W. Vieth

I’ll just add that looking forward we believe that we’ll be able to continue to mitigate pressures on department stores and chains core bra business with increases in Shapewear, continuing strength in the mass, and we ought to get some headwinds from some of our new products like Total Solutions as well.

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

On the Donna Karan spending, I seem to ask this every time I talk to you guys, you’re a little bit above spending this quarter versus your guidance. You said that was timing. Have your conversations with the department stores changed now that their business has really slowed down? Are they asking for more in terms of getting the DK brand ready to launch for next year?

Maurice S. Reznik

When we start shipping the beginning of January, clearly they have been impacted at retail even more dramatically but they’re really excited about what we’re showing. We expect to have actually a very strong Q1 rollout. Our plans are conservative and as we mentioned on the last call we expect to add around 5% of our growth with this business, and we’re still staying that course.

Christopher W. Vieth

On the dollar spend that’s still for the year in the $6 million range. $2.5 million this year and $0.06.

Operator

Our next question comes from Omar Saad - Credit Suisse Securities LLC.

Omar Saad - Credit Suisse Securities LLC

I would also like to express my congratulations and best wishes to Felise.

One of the interesting things I noticed in the release this morning was the mix shift in the product categories. You guys have been trending for some time the bra as a total mix of the business has been in kind of the mid-to-high 60s and in some quarters over 70%, and it really fell off as a percentage of the mix and you really saw Shapewear take almost a step change from the low 20s to the low 30s as a percent of the mix. Can you help us understand, are there fundamental changes in your business ongoing or is this just a reflection of the new programs and big accounts? How should we be thinking about the nature of your business on a category basis?

Maurice S. Reznik

We see Shapewear clearly as a growth opportunity and again its clear the numbers have to add up to 100% so it doesn’t necessarily reflect a de-emphasis on our bra business. But Shapewear as a category, again we view that as a very significant growth initiative and by the way it’s also our highest margin business in general. The way that I would look at this business and the way that we do look at this business is we see Shapewear as a percent of total to normalize at a higher rate than we’ve previously been. But because of the number of new launches that we had in the quarter they’re a little fuzzy somewhere in between from where we have been historically.

Omar Saad - Credit Suisse Securities LLC

To refresh us, the competitive dynamics in Shapewear are quite different than on the bra business, correct?

Maurice S. Reznik

Right. Most retailers that we do business with, we were sort of the category leader and it’s a different set of competitors in general. Again we see opportunities across every channel and where we’ve had the most dramatic growth really has been in the chain and in the mass business. The Control It brand has been outstanding, double-digit market share. In the mass business the Sweet Nothings brand has done extremely well.

Omar Saad - Credit Suisse Securities LLC

Has private label as advanced on Shapewear as it is on the bra side?

Maurice S. Reznik

Not really. Even when you look at private label frankly in the bra side, in reality there really hasn’t been a significant fundamental change from a brand versus private label. There’s more hype than reality.

Operator

Our next question comes from Eric Beder - Brean Murray, Carret & Co.

Eric Beder - Brean Murray, Carret & Co.

Could you talk a little more in depth about international and what the opportunities are there? Has the strengthening dollar kind of changed the dynamics of that?

Maurice S. Reznik

We see international for sure in the long term as a very important opportunity. Part of our strategic initiative that once it’s finalized we’ll communicate with you is international is a key focus. It’s about 10% of our business. The strength of the dollar may have some affect. Really with the strength of our business internationally particularly in Shapewear we see that continuing. We can give you more color on that next time we talk.

Christopher W. Vieth

I’d just add that we see it as Maurice said as an opportunity to continue growth for us. We were up 17% in the third quarter and the fx impact of that was only about $0.5 million for us. In an environment where we’re growing revenue pretty rapidly we can mitigate the impacts that fx might have on it. The last point I’ll make is that DK and DKNY are very underpenetrated today internationally and we’ve got a good foothold there already based on the work that we’ve done. We’ll continue to be able to grow and expand that as we move forward. The opportunities are pretty good for us from the standpoint that we’ve been so far underpenetrated historically.

Eric Beder - Brean Murray, Carret & Co.

In terms of the department store business, are you seeing pricing pressures or is it basically just general economic pressure when you look at it? Is it more competitive or is it pretty much just the economy?

Maurice S. Reznik

There’s a lot of pressure on inventory management which creates pricing pressure. The category’s relatively promotional already with the exception of Shapewear which is not as promotional. In our assumptions we see that pressure continuing into the fourth quarter and into next year and that’s how we’re building our business model going forward.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jody Kevin Kane - Sidoti & Company LLC.

Jody Kevin Kane - Sidoti & Company LLC

Good luck. I wish you all the best.

Talking a little bit about the business here, the department store demand, is that as difficult for your line of business as everybody else or are you seeing a little less slowdown in the demand from the department stores?

Maurice S. Reznik

Clearly when there’s less traffic in the stores, it impacts every category. Intimate apparel in general has been faring from the data we’ve been looking at is comparable to other female apparel categories in that channel. However when we look at our business in aggregate and we look at point of sale data obviously on a daily basis as a key indicator in aggregate, we’ve been able to with the increase in demand in Shapewear has offset some of the softness in some of the bra categories. So we’re not immune to it from this type of business but again in aggregate we’ve been able to hold our own from a share perspective.

Christopher W. Vieth

And while we’re certainly seeing pressure there and we expect to continue to, I’ll note here that in the second half we’re projecting; we had roughly $6 million in business that shifted from the second quarter into the third quarter but even excluding that we’re in a range here in the second half for department stores and chains of flat to up a little bit or flat to down a little bit, which in this environment particularly when you look at the kind of comps that the department stores and chains are putting up is pretty respectable despite the environment.

Jody Kevin Kane - Sidoti & Company LLC

Intimate apparel versus regular apparel, are you seeing the same kind of declines or less than say regular sportswear?

Maurice S. Reznik

If I understand your question, you’re asking about how intimate is trending versus non-intimate?

Jody Kevin Kane - Sidoti & Company LLC

Yes.

Maurice S. Reznik

From the data that we’ve been seeing it’s pretty comparable. The nice thing about this category though is that it is a staple item and it’s basic and it’s replenishable. Even within intimate apparel by the way, if I can just qualify my answer, there are certain categories of business that are doing much better than general apparel. Full figure business, for example our Lilyette business is very, very strong and again Shapewear has been strong.

Jody Kevin Kane - Sidoti & Company LLC

On the price point side, are you seeing any price increases or pricing decreases because of what’s happening?

Maurice S. Reznik

When we look at the business we look at the promotional activity and we look at just pricing in general. We’ve been able as Chris mentioned to mitigate some of the pricing pressures by very aggressive cost engineering and just very aggressive product develop to mitigate those costs. We are having selective price increases where our brands have the elasticity to support them but it is going into a cycle where demand in general is not up and I just don’t think it would be responsible to have massive price increases. Some categories of business can support these pricing increases better; again Shapewear is one of those categories where we have strength of brand, strength of product.

Operator

Our next question comes from [Mimi Bartel - Teltia Advisory Group].

[Mimi Bartel - Teltia Advisory Group]

Just to piggyback on that last comment on the pricing. You noted earlier that the Shapewear business was commanding higher prices even in this environment. Could you just comment on the price elasticity of Shapewear in general as compared to some of the other intimate apparel categories and then how you’re generally thinking about Shapewear pricing going forward?

Maurice S. Reznik

Shapewear is not as promotional. As you know the bra business particularly in department stores is a high/low business. Shapewear is much less sensitive to pricing. It really is. Consumers need it and they buy it. This is sort of a must-have category.

By the way, just as another quick side note on Shapewear, the business is growing not just with current users but we also see additional opportunity to grow the category with people that wouldn’t consider wearing Shapewear on a daily basis.

Back to the pricing though, because it really is a problem solution type of business and because our brands really are known for being problem solvers, again we’re able to command higher pricing. As far as what that higher pricing is, it will be in the low to mid-single-digit increases in the department store channel.

Operator

Our next question comes from Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

On the inventory, I know you guide it to sort of flat inventory by the end of the year. Are you going to do that through increased selling to the off-price channel or just clearing inventory through your outlets? How do you expect to clear that?

Christopher W. Vieth

It’s simply just better management. There’s no special sales contemplated to clearance or others. We’ve just gotten smarter, better, faster, cheaper at managing our supply chain and our inventory’s in good shape.

Scott Krasik - C.L. King & Associates, Inc.

So the 9.5% increase in inventories versus the 3% type sales guidance, that’ll just come sort of on the back end as you manage inventories for early flow-through in the first quarter?

Christopher W. Vieth

Yes. We’re managing up here in the third quarter to deliver a number of new products here into the fourth. We’ll by the end of this year as we said we expect to be flat to down modestly to last year as a result of really just better forecasting and doing a better job of managing our inventory levels.

Maurice S. Reznik

If I may add also, if you think about we’re also gearing up for Donna Karan and DKNY which we have to have in our distribution center to start delivering that the beginning of January. Even with that, the quality of our inventory is very, very good.

Operator

It appears we have no further questions. I will now turn the call back over to Mr. Reznik.

Maurice S. Reznik

Thank you very much. Again we appreciate your interest in our company and we look forward to talking with you soon.

Operator

Thank you all for your participation in today’s conference. This concludes the presentation and you may now disconnect.

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Source: Maidenform Brands, Inc. F3Q08 (Quarter End 9/27/08) Earnings Call Transcript
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