TEXTILES REBOUND NEAR?

TEXTILES REBOUND NEAR?

After almost a year of disappointing earnings and growing competition from imports, the U.S. textile industry may be ready to recover, industry analysts say.

But they caution that the next few months will be crucial if textile makers are to spin off noticeable gains by the end of the year."It's still sort of iffy out there," said Patricia Ryan, textile analyst for Florida-based Raymond James and Associates Inc. "It's far from certain when we're going to see the rebound."

Analysts said the industry's downturn has resulted from several factors, including financial troubles at several retail chains and growing imports from China and other Pacific Rim countries.

According to the Commerce Department, the United States imported 1.88 billion square yards of textiles in the first quarter of 1990, up more than 2 percent from the 1.84 billion square yards imported a year ago.

The industry is clamoring for trade legislation that it hopes will keep cheap imports out. A bill pending in Congress would limit the growth of textile imports to 1 percent a year, but analysts are dubious about its chances of passage.

"I don't think Bush will want to sign protectionist legislation," said Lorraine Miller, an analyst with Robinson-Humphrey Co.

Textile manufacturers expect orders to pick up for the fall season, analysts said, but they view those expectations with caution.

"A number of companies have told me that there are indications from retailers that orders will increase in the quarter ending in September," Ms. Ryan said. "But when I ask them, 'Are you seeing those orders yet?' the answer has been no."

One of the few companies that has seen an increase in orders from buyers is Delta Woodside Industries Inc., a fabrics manufacturer in Greenville, S.C.

"Orders began to pick up in March," said Bettis Rainsford, Delta chief

financial officer. "Coming off of profound weakness in October through February, the situation seems to be getting better."

Mr. Rainsford forecast that earnings for Delta's 1990 fiscal year ending June 30 would fall to 38 cents a share, compared with $1.65 a share in fiscal 1989, due to the industrywide downturn and special charges taken in the second quarter.

Analysts see the best long-term prospects for Fort Mill, S.C.-based Springs Industries Inc.

Springs, a manufacturer of home furnishing, apparel and industrial fabrics, is halfway through a three-year modernization and restructuring program that analysts say will greatly improve profitability.

"I really like what they are doing, but you won't see any of the benefits until 1991," said Robinson-Humphrey's Miller.

Jay Meltzer, Goldman Sachs analyst, said other companies also were beginning to report stronger orders, but he declined to identify them.

Analysts said March earnings were dismal for the entire industry, and they expect similarly disappointing results for the quarter ending in June. Most said they have hold ratings on the industry group, meaning they do not recommend buying the stocks, but that people who already own stock should hold onto it rather than selling.

They said Greensboro, N.C.-based Guilford Mills Inc. is exposed on two fronts - weak overall textile sales and sluggish auto demand - because it is a major supplier of automotive fabrics.

Once-mighty West Point Pepperell Inc., acquired by Chicago investor William Farley in early 1989, has financial troubles resulting from the huge debt burden Mr. Farley took on to finance the acquisition. Collapsing junk bond prices have also contributed.

Mr. Farley has missed some interest payments and may be forced to sell profitable divisions of the West Point, Ga.-based textile manufacturer to raise cash, analysts said.

The chairman of USAir Group Inc. said the nation's seventh-largest airline will postpone delivery of a dozen new aircraft for more than three years

because of sluggish busi- ness.

Chairman Edwin I. Colodny said Friday the airline would delay delivery of the Boeing Co. planes from 1991-92 to 1995.

"The economy is soft. Travel is down," Mr. Colodny told reporters after a luncheon meeting of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. "I don't think we should fool ourselves and say everything is rosy. It's not."

A Boeing spokesman expressed surprise at the news.

"I have never heard of a firm order being delayed like that," said Jack Gamble of Boeing Commercial Airplane Group.

USAir spokesman John Bron- son on Saturday confirmed Mr. Colodny's statement and said the planes involved were all Boeing 737s.

Mr. Bronson said the proposal to defer delivery until 1995 was included in Mr. Colodny's recent letter to all USAir employees.

In exchange for delaying the deliveries, USAir agreed to buy 24 more planes from the manufacturer and purchase options on 56 more aircraft after 1995, Mr. Colodny said.

USAir has one of the airline industry's younger fleets and will delay retiring some planes, Mr. Colodny said.

USAir lost $76 million in 1989 after 13 consecutive profitable years. The airline lost $38 million in 1990's first quarter.

In last year's annual report, the company said it had commitments to buy five Boeing 767s before 1992 and 55 Boeing 737s before 1993.

Projected spending on new planes was $882 million this year, $767 million in 1991 and $264 million in 1992, the report said.