German sportswear firm Puma on Monday reported record revenues in 2017, with celebrity sparkle from Rihanna and the football World Cup set to maintain the leaping-cat brand's appeal into 2018.

Net profit at the Bavaria-based company more than doubled last year, reaching 135.8 million euros ($166.7 million) compared with the 62.4 million seen in 2016.

Operating, or underlying profit grew almost 92 percent, to 127.6 million euros, on the back of sales up 14 percent at 4.1 billion euros.

The firm's own forecasts had called for "a high single-digit increase".

"2017 was a great year for us at Puma," chief executive Bjorn Gulden said in a statement, adding that the firm would "look positive into 2018" as major sporting events and high-profile celebrity partnerships keep its logo in the spotlight.

Puma booked double-digit sales growth in all three of its major regions -- Europe, the Middle East and Africa, the Americas, and Asia -- with sports and leisure footwear and women's clothing making especially big strides.

The group's focus on its appeal to female customers was clear last year as it launched two collections from Rihanna and recruited singer and actress Selena Gomez to front new footwear lines.

But Puma maintained its focus on sponsoring top sports teams and personalities, with Germany's Borussia Dortmund, Britain's Arsenal and Mexico's Chivas claiming top titles in their respective countries.

Last year also saw sprinting legend Usain Bolt bow out at the IAAF World Championships and Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton bring home his fourth champion title.

The likes of Hamilton and Rihanna will remain front and centre into the new year, the group said, while three Puma-sponsored teams -- Switzerland, Uruguay and Senegal -- will take to the field at the football World Cup in Russia.

Germany's Borussia Moenchengladbach, France's Olympique de Marseille and Italy's AC Milan will also be sporting the big cat in future, while 2018 will see Puma celebrate its 70th year in business.

On the business side, the firm said it would pay out a one-off dividend of 12.50 euros per share for 2017, after a regular dividend of 0.75 euros the previous year.

Puma expects to boost currency-adjusted sales by around 10 percent compared with 2017's figure, while boosting its operating profit to between 305 million and 325 million euros and upping net profits "significantly".

Majority shareholder Kering, a luxury holding group, plans to distribute around 70 percent of Puma's stock to its own shareholders, retaining a stake of just 16 percent.

The move will mean around 55 percent of Puma shares are freely traded on markets.

The Guardian


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