Any company with major overseas sales is most likely enjoying itself these days, as the weak dollar and recession worries here at home hit domestic firms. Athletic footwear and apparel titan Nike
First-quarter sales advanced 11%. The U.S. grew only 2%, but Nike's other "Americas" region advanced 15% on strong growth in Mexico and Argentina. Europe and the Middle East advanced 16%, while Asia led the way with a 22% top-line improvement. Nike also breaks its sales into footwear, apparel, and equipment, and every category grew in the double digits overseas. Only the U.S. apparel and equipment areas fell for the quarter, both dropping 1%.
Footwear sales grew 4% here at home, but with mall-based retailers such as Finish Line
Domestic challenges sent U.S. pre-tax income down 2%, though every other region grew in the double digits, highlighted by an impressive 52% jump in Asia. Overall reported earnings grew 51%, which included a tax benefit. Without the tax gain, the bottom line advanced 24%, well ahead of management's long-term goal of mid-teens EPS expansion.
Nike also plans to grow sales to $23 billion by fiscal 2011, or around 50% more than last year's $16 billion. This target is definitely ambitious; it's causing management to dig deeper into its portfolio of brands, and it could be why the company has considered selling its Nike Bauer Hockey business. It may also spur Nike to acquire outside rivals down the road; cross-town rival Columbia Sportwear
The market clearly liked Nike's first-quarter results, since the stock spiked to a new 52-week high after the announcement. The recent run is nothing new to the company; years of rapid growth have catapulted Nike and its swoosh logo to a top spot among the world's apparel brands. Better yet, prodigious cash flow generation and geographic and product diversity have helped it smooth out the volatility inherent in selling products susceptible to the hit-and-miss whims of fashion, unlike the troubles smaller rivals such as K-Swiss
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