Don't Sweat Nike

You know it's a crazy market when a company posts 16% quarterly sales growth and a 14% jump in earnings to beat analyst expectations, only to have its stock punished 10% on concerns about growth in its home market. That's exactly what happened yesterday to Oregon-based Nike (NYSE: NKE  ) when it reported fourth-quarter results.

The full-year figures were equally impressive, with sales improving 14% and earnings up 28%. The top-line boost was especially strong in the Asia Pacific region and Americas regions, which each grew more than 20% on nice footwear and apparel trends and also benefited from a weak U.S. dollar. Nike's European region ran ahead 19%, with the U.S. region pulling up the rear and experiencing only 4% sales growth.

The profit picture told a similar story, as every overseas region saw a double-digit increase in pre-tax income. The U.S. eked out a 2% gain for fiscal 2008, but apparently alarmed investors as fourth-quarter profits fell 10%. Additionally, futures orders, which you may have guessed consist of orders already placed by customers, were flat in the U.S. As rivals Skechers (NYSE: SKX  ) and Under Armour (NYSE: UA  ) can attest, merchandise appears to be sitting on the shelves longer here at home.

Yet total futures orders were up 11% and place Nike on solid footing for the coming year as it pursues a long-term goal of high single-digit sales growth, mid-teen EPS expansion and annual improvements in cash flows and return on invested capital. Management isn't sitting still in reaching these goals: It sold its Starter brand to Iconix Brand Group (Nasdaq: ICON  ) and Bauer Hockey brands during the year and acquired Umbro to compete with archrival Adidas (OTC: ADDDY) on the soccer field.

There's no doubt that domestic trends will remain challenging as record energy prices and food inflation siphon off funds that consumers would rather spend at Dick's Sporting Goods (NYSE: DKS  ) and Foot Locker (NYSE: FL  ) , which happen to be primary stomping grounds for Nike's footwear, apparel, and equipment goods. But thanks to a global reach, the U.S. accounts for only a little more than one-third of total sales, and the strong overseas trend continues to demonstrate that Nike and its iconic swoosh are only getting warmed up as a leading global brand. I have no plans to sell this stock, and may even pick up more shares on the recent dip.   

Under Armour is a Motley Fool Rule Breakers pick and the Fool owns shares of Under Armour.

Fool contributor Ryan Fuhrmann is long shares of Nike, but has no financial interest in any other company mentioned. Feel free to email him with feedback or to discuss any companies mentioned further. The Fool has an ironclad disclosure policy.


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