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Vans' Shares Fall 30% on Poor Outlook in Japan

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January 30, 1998|DEBORA VRANA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shares of Vans Inc. plunged 30% on Thursday amid mounting concern that Asia's financial crisis will hamper its sneaker sales in Japan much more than anticipated.

Santa Fe Springs-based Vans, which receives 15% of its $44 million in annual revenue from sales in Japan, saw its stock fall $3.72 a share on Nasdaq to close at $8.53.

The company was the third-largest percentage decliner in U.S. markets Thursday.

Several analysts who follow Vans, which makes sneakers for the young and hip, downgraded their "buy" recommendations on the stock to "long-term attractive" or "hold."

Though Vans said last month that its Japanese sales would be hurt by economic troubles, the firm had not expected a bankruptcy filing by Kuwada, the largest customer of Vans' Japanese distributor, International Trading, said Kyle Wescoat, Vans' chief financial officer.

"This problem took us by surprise," Wescoat said. "We felt we got clipped today as a result, but we are still very bullish. This is a temporary setback and we think we can work this out."

Wescoat noted that Vans makes 80% of its shoes in South Korea. The currency plunge there has helped Vans reduce production costs.

Still, the $12-billion U.S. sneaker business has been hit hard recently. Stock prices of industry leaders such as Reebok International and Nike have been sliding amid growing signs that sales are going flat.

For the year, Vans' stock is down 43.6%. Its 52-week high was $17.69 on Oct. 15.

Times staff writer Walter Hamilton contributed to this report.

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