Economic headwinds, including stubbornly high unemployment and a shaky housing market, persist. Worse yet, the bull market may have finally given up the ghost. Yet at least one company -- a consumer discretionary company, in fact -- believes that it can roughly double profit in the next five years.
Worried investor, meet Nike
I've called out this footwear and apparel dynamo as a winner in the past, and I wasn't surprised to find management laying out ambitious goals at its investor meeting earlier in the month. Let's see whether Nike can actually achieve those targets.
Here are a few key details from Nike's 2015 strategic growth plan:
- Double the current $390 million in sales from the Action Sports category, which consists of the Nike 6.0 and Nike SB sub-brands.
- Invest in developing markets, including China and Central and Eastern Europe, with the expectation that low-double-digit revenue growth there will lead to an additional $3.0 billion-$3.5 billion in yearly sales by 2015.
- Open another 250-300 Nike-branded retail stores, atop the roughly 430 locations in business at the end of fiscal 2009.
Now that we've covered the "whats" of Nike's operational plans, let's consider the "hows" of the company's financial targets. On a headline basis, these numbers include 40% revenue growth -- to $27 billion by the close of fiscal 2015 -- along with the aforementioned doubling of EPS, which is based on estimated midteens annual EPS percentage gains:
- In line with the retail-store growth plan, Nike sees this business contributing an additional $2.2 billion-$2.6 billion in revenue by 2015. That, in turn, will have an outsized impact on profitability, since this segment boasts superior margins to the wholesale business.
- Furthermore, Nike is exploring improvements that it can extend to its retail partners. If Chinese retail locations can bring up their sales conversions (a ratio of customer traffic to store sales) by one percentage point, their total sales would rise by nearly $700 million.
- Finally, management sees the increased traction of higher-priced products, favorable geographic shifts, stock buybacks, and improved tax efficiency all driving EPS growth well ahead of top-line gains.
All told, there's a great deal to recommend Nike, particularly on a relative basis. The company's one-year revenue growth surpasses that of industry players such as VF
Despite these positive points, I'm still cautious about Nike. Right now, its shares trade at a fiscal-2011 price-to-earnings ratio of 16.6 -- not exactly bargain basement. In such a dour market, I'm not certain the company can successfully drive growth by selling more products at higher prices. If investors begin to share my doubts, and substantially discount Nike's forward growth expectations, its shares could take a big hit.
For now, you might be better off watching this game of catch-this-stock-if-you-can from the sidelines.