VF Corp. Downgraded On Executive Turnover, Hurdles For The North Face

By Tonya Garcia Markets MarketWatch Pulse

VF Corp. was downgraded to hold from buy at Canaccord Genuity on concerns over executive departures and competition facing The North Face brand. The price target was cut to $54 from $64. Shares are down 1.2% in Thursday trading, and hit their lowest point in more than three years. VFC, whose brands include Wrangler and Timberland in addition to The North Face, has a new chief executive, Steven Rendle, as of Jan. 1. The company's group president of VF International, Karl Heinz Salzburger, also announced that he would retire at the end of 2017. Canaccord analysts also learned that The North Face's Chief Executive Todd Spaletto would be leaving the company after 13 years. Analysts believe these departures, at least, will lead to a period of adjustment or, at worst, could indicate greater challenges. Aside from executive issues, Canaccord analysts are also concerned that cold December weather wasn't enough to offset weakness between September and November. With growing competition from brands like Canada Goose and Columbia Sportswear Co. and a "lull in innovation," the brand has lost market share, analysts said. Canaccord forecasts a "reset likely coming" on the Mar. 30 analyst day "from what had been high-single digit revenue growth to mid-single digit growth for its outlook period." VF Corp. shares are down 10.1% for the past year while the S&P 500 index is up 16.4% for the same period.

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