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NEW YORK CITY-Liz Claiborne Inc. took a net loss of $828.9 million in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 3 and anticipates that this year will bring more of the same, the apparel maker and retailer reported on Wednesday. The quarterly loss was deepened to $8.36 per share by $683 million in goodwill impairment charges.

The Q4 numbers accounted for much of the company’s 2008 net loss of $952 million, up from a full-year net loss of $373 million in 2007, according to financial statements. CEO William McComb notes in a statement that the Q4 operating environment was “extraordinarily difficult as consumer spending was further impacted by deteriorating economic conditions.”

Comparable-store sales for the company’s Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Kate Spade were each in the negative mid-teens while comps for Mexx, the international retail segment, were negative 12%. “The highly promotional retail environment also negatively impacted margins in both our retail and wholesale businesses,” McComb says in a statement.

McComb says Liz Claiborne is not providing full-year 2009 earnings guidance due to “the lack of visibility caused by the highly uncertain environment.” However, he adds that the company’s ’09 plan assumes that the retail environment for the year will be similar to that seen in Q4 ’08. This would translate into comp-store declines in the 15% to 25% range for all brands through the third quarter of this year. The company predicts that its comps will flatten within Q4 ‘09. “We are planning working capital, marketing and other expenses assuming this retail trend,” McComb says in a statement.

Accordingly, the company anticipates “a meaningful loss” in operating profit for the first quarter of ‘09, with improvement in each successive quarter “as the $70 million in cost reductions we announced in early February flow through over the balance of this year,” McComb says. These cutbacks include layoffs of 725 employees, the closing of the company’s Mt. Pocono, PA distribution center and suspension of merit pay for all employees.

The company ended ’08 with total debt of $744 million, below the $750-million to $775- million range forecast in its earnings call last November, and $144 million less than at year-end ’07. In late February, Liz Claiborne announced a worldwide sourcing agreement with Hong Kong-based Li & Fung.

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