LIZ CLAIBORNE, INC. $34 (New York symbol LIZ; WSSF Rating: Average) designs and markets clothing and accessories for women under roughly 40 labels, including Liz Claiborne, Ellen Tracy and Mexx. It sells these products through major department stores, and over 640 company-owned specialty stores and clearance outlets. It also makes men’s clothing, and licenses its brands to non-apparel manufacturers. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns 9% of the stock.
The company has used acquisitions to spur its growth in the past few years. This has helped it diversify into faster-growing segments of the apparel market, and cut its reliance on products aimed at businesswomen and other professionals.
Liz Claiborne is now trying to buy The J. Jill Group, Inc., which sells upscale clothing to women age 35 and older through 175 stores in 34 states. The offer is about 7% more than the $2.84 a share (total $313.6 million) that Liz Claiborne earned in 2004.
J. Jill has struggled recently, but Liz Claiborne feels it can lower costs by combining their purchasing and advertising functions, and that it can do a better job marketing the J. Jill brand.
Liz Claiborne’s earnings in 2005 probably rose to $2.91 a share, and the stock trades at just 11.7 times that figure. That’s cheap in light of the company’s market share and strong brand portfolio. The $0.225 dividend yields 0.7%.
Liz Claiborne is a buy.