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Why Nike, Inc. Stock Is Climbing After Mixed Earnings

By Steve Symington - Mar 19, 2015 at 7:28PM

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Nike beat earnings estimates once again, but revenue fell short. Here's why the market is giving Nike a pass.

Nike Inc. (NKE 0.11%) might be an $85 billion business facing macro-economic headwinds, but it just showed investors there's plenty of spring left in its step. Nike stock climbed around 4.3% in Thursday's after-hours trading despite mixed quarterly results from the global footwear and athletic-apparel titan.

Revenue increased 7% year over year, to $7.46 billion, during Nike's fiscal third quarter, falling short of analysts' expectations for sales of $7.62 billion. But just as Nike management warned during last quarter's call, that includes continued headwinds from weaker international currencies. On a currency-neutral basis, sales would have jumped an impressive 13%, including 11% growth in NIKE brand revenue, to $6.9 billion, and a 33% increase in Converse revenue, to $538 million.

Meanwhile, Nike's net income rose 16%, to $791 million, and diluted earnings per share increased 19%, to $0.89. The latter figure beat Wall Street's expectations for earnings of $0.84 per share, and was helped by both continued gross margin expansion and a 2% decline in the number of diluted common shares outstanding.

Nike repurchased another 6.5 million shares for $612 million during the quarter under its $8 billion share-repurchase plan authorized in late 2012. Nike has exhausted around $5.3 billion of that plan so far, buying back around 74.1 million shares at an average price of $71.13 per share. It also ended the quarter with cash and investments of roughly $5.4 billion, an increase of $332 million over the same year-ago period.

"Our strong third quarter results show that our growth strategies are working, even under challenging macroeconomic conditions," added Nike CEO Mark Parker. "NIKE has the ability to deliver consistent shareholder value due to the strength of our brand, our relentless commitment to innovation and our powerful portfolio that allows us to invest in the opportunities with the highest potential for growth as well as manage risk."

Global growth for the win
Similar to its last two quarters, Nike continued to enjoy broad revenue growth. Currency-neutral sales increased in "most" key categories and in every geography, including 6% growth in North America, and on a constant-currency basis, 21% and 17% growth in Western Europe and Greater China, respectively.

In fact, based on Nike's current position in China -- where the company battled to reset the brand amid sluggish growth last year -- Parker elaborated during the subsequent conference call that they're now comfortable "evolving from a reset strategy to a 'new normal' of how we do business in China."

Nike also announced worldwide futures orders -- which track Nike brand footwear and apparel scheduled for delivery from March 2015 through July 2015 -- increased just 2% on a reported basis, but a much more healthy 11% on a constant-currency basis. That's in line with Nike's solid futures results last quarter, and includes 15% growth in North America, a 7% constant-currency increase in Western Europe, and 23% growth in Greater China.

As I suggested above, Nike's gross margin also continued to expand, this time by 140 basis points, to 45.9%. This is a testament to Nike's ability to tap its innovative roots and strong brand to sell higher-priced products, as well as its penchant for bolstering the higher-margin direct-to-consumer business. 

On guidance
Finally, Nike management offered a look at the future with guidance. For the current quarter, Nike sees constant-dollar revenue growth in the low double digits, with reported revenue growth eight to nine points lower. Growth margin in Q4 should be "flat to up" around 25 basis points. Analysts were modeling 5.1% growth in fiscal fourth-quarter revenue, to $7.8 billion. 

For the full fiscal year 2016 -- and with the caveat that these are "initial thoughts" in lieu of the completion of Nike's planning -- Nike sees reported revenue growth in the mid-single digits, and EPS growth in the high single- to low-double-digit range. Wall Street, for its part, seemed slightly more optimistic by looking for fiscal 2016 revenue and earnings to climb 7.7% and 13.8%, respectively. 

As long as foreign currencies remain volatile, it's difficult to get a gauge of how Nike's business is really faring. Lucky for long-term investors, Nike's currency-neutral results appear to show its core business has never been stronger. For now, it bodes well that Nike is continuing to deliver profitable growth in spite of its current headwinds, which is why it comes as no surprise the market is bidding up Nike stock right now.

Steve Symington has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Nike. The Motley Fool owns shares of Nike. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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