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Analyst lowers Crocs rating to 'underperform'

The Associated Press

Shares of Crocs fell Thursday before markets opened and after an analyst who covers the footwear maker criticized its leadership and questioned a business relationship.

Sterne Agee analyst Sam Poser also lowered his rating on the shares to "underperform" from "neutral" and dropped his 2013 earnings estimate.

Poser said in a Thursday morning research note that a lack leadership has led to poor performance from the Niwot, Colo., company, which makes colorful plastic shoes. He said several regional managers and other executives have left the company.

"Unfortunately, it appears that those that concur with the top executives remain at the company at the expense of numerous talented people who have left," Poser wrote.

Company representatives did not immediately return Thursday morning phone calls or emails from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Poser also said Crocs was selling insoles and coated posture seats to backjoy.com, a company with leadership that includes several former Crocs executives.

"We have asked Crocs' management if the relationship with Backjoy is at arms' length, and were provided with insufficient information to convince us," Poser wrote, adding that the relationship with former Crocs executives may have pre-empted a search for the best deal.

The company has been trying to expand beyond its signature plastic clogs to wedges, sandals and even golf shoes. Crocs also said in July that its second-quarter net income fell 43 percent on weaker sales in the United States and Europe.

Shares of Crocs Inc. dropped after those results were released, and shares fell again Thursday morning. Shares slid more than 6 percent, or 86 cents, to $13.15 in premarket trading. That put the stock down more than 8 percent so far this year.