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Fitness financials: Everlast hits Nasdaq high after signing three license deals, plus Reebok, Puma, GSI, Russell, Wal-Mart

Everlast hits Nasdaq high after signing three licensing deals. Reebok shareholders to vote on adidas-Salomon merger. Herz siblings reportedly eyeing Puma takeover. GSI elects new board member. Russell board OKs dividend. Wal-Mart sticks to December sales forecast.

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Everlast hits Nasdaq high after signing three licensing deals
Last week, Everlast Worldwide (Nasdaq: EVST) was on a licensing tear, signing three separate agreements—many of which boosted its shares as much as 9.2 percent on the Nasdaq. Over the past 12 months, Everlast shares have climbed from a low of $3.39 to a high of $14.60, and are up 30 percent year-to-date.

First, Everlast signed a new licensing agreement for work boots, safety shoes, steel-toed shoes and electrostatic dissipating footwear in the United States and Canada, saying it wanted to maximize its footwear presence in those regions as well as abroad. Federated Venture Capital Group of Beijing will lead the consortium of companies that are combining efforts to create the line, including M&B Imports of Miami and Rontex Federated of Beijing.

But the contract that made investors’ hearts really skip a beat the following day was Everlast’s four-year deal with Jacques Moret of New York City to handle Everlast men’s activewear, sportswear, outerwear and swimwear in the United States.

Moret, maker of Jockey and Danskin brand active wear, will partner with M. Hidary and Company for design, development and sales of the activewear portion of the license. M. Hidary has a reputation for success with its many years of experience in the men’s branded activewear business. They will purchase certain men’s apparel inventory owned by Everlast and assume other transitional costs associated with the men’s business. Additionally, select sales, merchandising and operational personnel will join the new group.

Seth Horowitz, chairman, CEO and president of Everlast, said that despite Everlast’s own success from operating its men’s apparel business, it decided it would benefit more from the license.

Distribution levels of Everlast men’s apparel will remain unchanged and will continue to be focused on specialty stores, mid-tier department stores as well as sporting goods retailers. Orders already placed with Everlast for spring and summer men’s apparel will be shipped in joint efforts between Everlast and Jacques Moret during the transition period.

Horowitz said the license with Moret will allow it to focus on its professional and retail boxing equipment and worldwide licensing businesses, and be able to identify and execute even more cost containment initiatives that will further enhance Everlast’s operating results.

After the announcement, Everlast shares jumped $0.79, or 9.2 percent, to $9.24 in late afternoon trading on the Nasdaq.

A day after signing with Moret, Everlast signed another new license with Wilson Imports for men’s, women’s and children’s footwear in the U.K. and Republic of Ireland to be distributed in sporting goods retailers, department stores and athletic footwear retailers in the region. This agreement with Wilson Imports is in addition to the company’s license for Everlast active apparel signed earlier this year. Everlast will continue to supply professional and amateur boxing shoes to the market.

Everlast shares added $0.63, or 6.8 percent, to $9.86 in midday trading on the Nasdaq.

Reebok shareholders to vote on adidas-Salomon merger
Reebok International (NYSE:RBK) plans to hold a special meeting of shareholders on Jan. 25, 2006, to vote on its merger with adidas-Salomon. Shareholders of record as of Dec. 19 will be entitled to vote at the special meeting in its Canton, Mass., headquarters. The definitive proxy statement will be mailed to Reebok’s shareholders on or about Dec. 21. If passed, Reebok expects to complete the merger during the first half of 2006.

Herz siblings reportedly eyeing Puma takeover
Reports are floating around again that siblings Guenter and Daniela Herz are considering a takeover of Puma. An article in the Germany financial newspaper Handelsblatt cited Rainer Kutzner, managing director of the siblings’ investment vehicle Mayfair Vermogensverwaltung.

“We do not rule out a takeover offer. But a decision on this matter has not yet been made,” the newspaper quoted Kutzner as saying. Recently, Puma nominated Kutzner to join its supervisory board as a representative for Mayfair.

In a subsequent report to the Handelsblatt article, Kutzner rejected the report, saying his quotes were taken out of context and the Herz siblings had no plans to launch a takeover bid for Puma. When asked if they planned to raise their percentage stake, he added, “We do not take part in speculation, but we are keeping all options open.”

The eldest son and only daughter of coffee magnate Max Herz, the siblings’ new business interest follows a nasty breakup of Tchibo Holding, their family’s consumer products company, which in recent years has grown from a coffee company to a broader discount store with select products of all kinds, from bed sheets to ellipticals. Guenter and Daniela sold their interest in Tchibo to their mother Ingeburg Herz and siblings Joachim, Michael and Wolfgang Herz for an estimated $5 billion in August 2003. Guenter and Daniela raised their stake in Puma to 25.27 percent earlier this year from roughly 17 percent through Mayfair.

GSI elects new board member
John Hunter has been elected to serve on the board of directors for GSI Commerce (Nasdaq: GSIC). Hunter, the senior vice president of customer services for QVC Inc., fills the seat recently vacated by Randy Ronning. Hunter joined QVC in 1991 as a vice president of customer service. Hunter’s current role is that of chief customer officer and advocate and he directs all aspects of QVC’s customer focus strategies. Prior to QVC, Hunter was a senior vice president in the credit division of Citibank.

Russell board OKs dividend
The board of directors of Russell Corp. (NYSE: RML) has declared its regular quarterly dividend of $0.04 per common share, payable Feb. 13, 2006, to shareholders of record on Jan. 30, 2006. The company said it is the 171st consecutive quarterly dividend paid.

Wal-Mart sticks to December sales forecast
Wal-Mart Stores (NYSE:WMT) is maintaining its December forecast for 2 percent to 4 percent sales growth at its U.S. stores open at least a year. It said the U.S. South was its strongest sales region.

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