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Nike, Inc. Leaps Higher on Another Strong Report

By Steve Symington - Sep 24, 2015 at 7:45PM

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The athletic shoe and apparel giant just crushed expectations. Here's how.

Nike (NKE -1.55%) just reported fiscal first-quarter 2016 results, and the market is rightly impressed. Quarterly revenue climbed 5% year over year, to $8.4 billion, while Nike's earnings jumped 23% during the same period, to $1.2 billion, or $1.34 per diluted share. Nike also repurchased 5.5 million shares of stock during the quarter for $588 million, leaving around $1.5 billion remaining under its current repurchase authorization.

Analysts, on average, were only anticipating earnings of $1.19 per share on revenue of $8.2 billion. Shares of Nike jumped more than 8% in Thursday's after-hours trading as a result. 

Fifty-two percent of all NIKE Brand revenue came from international markets during the quarter. Nike achieved this growth in spite of continued significant pressure from the strong dollar.

Excluding the negative effect of foreign-currency translation, Nike's top line would have increased a much more impressive 14%. That includes a 15% currency-neutral increase in NIKE Brand sales, to $7.9 billion, driven by growth in every geography and "nearly" every category, and more modest 3% currency-neutral growth from Converse, to $555 million. On the latter, management explained during the subsequent conference call that, while Converse is still enjoying double-digit growth in the U.S., that growth was partially offset by declines in certain European countries, including the U.K.

Nonetheless, Nike enjoyed solid currency-neutral revenue growth in all geographies, including 9% in North America, 14% in Western Europe, 26% in Central & Eastern Europe, 30% in Greater China, 35% in Japan, and 19% in emerging markets. As I wrote in my earnings preview earlier this week, emerging markets were a key point of "weakness" last quarter, as Nike not only worked to clear excess inventory in Mexico from a distribution center transition, but also faced the tough year-over-year comparisons given last year's FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

By contrast, during this quarter's call, management cited "strong growth" in Mexico, and relatively flat sales in in Brazil as macro-economic challenges persist. Management also says Nike Brazil is taking advantage of this challenge by enjoying improving trends and continuing to take market share.

Trending toward the bottom line, Nike's gross margin expanded 90 basis points year over year, to 47.5%, helped by a combination of growth in average selling prices, as well as accelerated 46% currency-neutral growth in Nike's high-margin direct-to-consumer, or  DTC, business. Meanwhile, "demand creation" expenses fell 7% against a favorable comparison to the same quarter last year, when Nike was still investing heavily to capitalize on post-World Cup momentum.

Next, to give investors a more accurate gauge of impending demand, Nike stated worldwide futures orders -- for products scheduled for delivery from September 2015 through January 2016 -- climbed 9%, or 17% on a currency-neutral basis. The latter figure was driven by an 11% increase in units, and a 6% increase in average selling price, demonstrating Nike's pricing power, and strong demand for higher-margin merchandise.

As a result, Nike expects fiscal second-quarter reported revenue growth to remain in the mid-single-digit range, reflecting a constant-currency growth rate in the low teens, similar to fiscal Q1. Nike's full-year outlook has also "slightly improved" compared to its view three months ago.

According to recently appointed Nike CFO Andy Campion, the company's full-year guidance still anticipates gross margin to expand by around 50 basis points, while reported revenue should grow "squarely within the mid-single-digit range." By comparison, analysts' consensus estimates currently call for full-year revenue growth of 6.1%, to $32.48 billion.

All in all, it's hard to find anything not to like in what amounts to another solid report from this world-class company. Given its strong quarterly beat and positive guidance, I can't blame investors for rejoicing with Nike stock near a fresh all-time high.

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