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O.C. BUSINESS PLUS | HEARD ON THE BEAT / RETAIL

Oakley Says Rival's Action Won't Hurt It

March 06, 2001|LESLIE EARNEST

Oakley Inc. is trying to persuade investors that it's not going to get dinged by the change of ownership anticipated at Sunglass Hut International, its largest customer.

Sunglass Hut announced last week that it expects to be purchased by Oakley competitor Luxottica Group SpA, which owns the popular Ray-Ban and Arnette brands. A day later, Oakley Chief Executive Jim Jannard said in a prepared statement that, after preliminary talks with Sunglass Hut, the Foothill Ranch-based sunglass maker had "every reason to believe" that the retailer will continue supporting Oakley as "a leading brand." Last year, Sunglass Hut sales represented 21% of Oakley's revenue.

Oakley's stock, which traded at $19.10 the day before the announcement, dipped after the news. It closed Monday at $17.23, down 7 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Oakley says it will use the weaker price as an opportunity to keep buying its own stock. Oakley's board authorized a $20-million stock repurchase program in December and about $8.3 million of that remains, the company said.

Leslie Earnest covers retail businesses for The Times. She can be reached at (714) 966-7832 and at leslie.earnest@latimes.com.

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