Whoever said close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades might want to think again.
Nike (NKE -0.53%) technically may not have lived up to expectations with its fiscal second-quarter 2016 results, but more than enough went right over the past three months to merit a nice golf clap for the footwear and athletic apparel giant.
After closing up 1.6% in Wednesday's regular session, Nike stock rose another 3% in after-hours trading after it revealed quarterly revenue climbed 4% year over year to $7.69 billion. As expected, currency headwinds continued to drag down reported results; revenue would have risen 12% had it not been for the negative effects of foreign exchange. Even so, Nike's guidance called for slightly higher fiscal Q2 reported revenue growth in the mid-single-digit percentage range and currency-neutral growth in the low teens.
"Our strong Q2 growth and profitability show that Nike continues to drive real momentum through the Category Offense," added Nike CEO Mark Parker. "And our powerful global portfolio of businesses, combined with strong financial discipline, continue to drive significant shareholder value."
More specifically, Nike's top line was driven by 13% currency-neutral growth in Nike brand revenue to just over $7.3 billion, and partially offset by a 5% decline in revenue from Converse to $398 million. On the former, Nike Brand revenue once again enjoyed double-digit growth across every geography and "most" key categories. And high-margin Nike brand direct-to-consumer sales rose 26% year over year, driven by a combination of new stores, 13% comparable-store sales growth, and stellar 49% growth in online revenue from Nike.com.
On the latter, Nike elaborated that Converse's "strong growth" in North America continued to be held back by declines in Europe. But that also doesn't mean Converse is struggling overseas; as I noted in my earnings preview last week, Nike CFO Andy Campion warned three months ago that quarterly year-over-year comparisons for Converse would be "uneven" going forward as Nike transitions the brand to "a more direct operating model outside of the U.S."
Sure enough, Campion insisted during Wednesday's call that "the Converse brand remains incredibly strong around the world."
Also to Nike's credit, gross margin increased 50 basis points to 45.6%, mostly reflecting higher average selling prices. That's also well above Nike's guidance, which pointed to a 25-basis-point expansion for the metric in fiscal Q2.
On the bottom line, net income rose 19.8% to $785 million, and, thanks in part to Nike's repurchase of 5.6 million shares during the quarter for $652 million, diluted earnings per share increased 21.6% to $0.90. Nike still has around $800 million remaining under what started as an $8 billion repurchase program approved in late 2012. When that authorization is exhausted, Nike will continue repurchasing shares under a new four-year, $12 billion program approved last month.
Meanwhile, inventories at the end of the quarter were up a healthy 11% year over year to $4.6 billion, and worldwide futures orders for Nike brand footwear and apparel (for the period from December 2015 through April 2016) were 15% higher than in the same year-ago period. On a currency-neutral basis, futures orders would have increased 20%.
Finally, for the current fiscal third quarter, Nike anticipates that reported revenue will grow in the high-single- to low-double-digit percentage range, while currency-neutral revenue growth should be in the mid-teens. Gross margin in fiscal Q3 is expected to fall roughly 50 basis points, according to Campion, "reflecting our efforts to more expeditiously clear inventory in North America while bringing new, innovative products to market."
For the full fiscal year, however -- thanks in no small part to its strong first half -- Nike continues to expect gross margin to expand by roughly 50 basis points, while revenue growth is still anticipated to be squarely in the mid-single-digit percentage range.
In the end, Nike's small top-line shortfall notwithstanding, I think this was another solid performance of which Nike investors should be proud.