Streetwise for Sunday, July 8, 2018
Let me start by saying once again that I am the antithesis of your normal sports enthusiast. Nevertheless, that is not a hindrance to recognizing successful companies in the athletic arena. Nike (NKE) with its famous swoosh trademark, would be my first suggestion for a possible research candidate in the competitive world of sports apparel.
When I wrote about Nike a year ago, my earnings estimate for fiscal 2018, (Nike’s fiscal year ends on May 31) was $2.58 per share with a 12-month projected share price of $63, for a 10 percent capital gain. There was also an indicated dividend yield of 1.22 percent.
So how did the company do? Earnings for fiscal 2018 came in at $2.51 and the shares recently closed at 76.57, well above my forecast. Although Nike’s earnings were a bit less than my forecast, its shares have delivered solid returns year-to-date. The stock is up 32 percent since July 1, 2017.
More importantly, the company will likely begin to see real progress going forward on several fronts, beginning with inventory management, all of which should translate into higher numbers in fiscal 2019. Nike indicated that a complete digital transformation of the company end-to-end, has set the foundation for the next wave of long-term, sustainable growth and profitability
Fourth quarter revenue increased 13 percent to $9.8 billion driven by strong double-digit revenue growth in international markets and NIKE Direct globally, and a return to growth in North America.
Earnings per share for the fourth quarter rose 15 percent to $0.69, primarily due to strong revenue growth, gross margin expansion, a lower tax rate and a lower average share count, which were partially offset by higher selling and administrative expense.
The bad news is that Nike’s gross margin has deteriorated over the last eight quarters with most of this contraction coming from exchange rate exposure.
Nike’s gross margin for all of 2018 was 43.8 percent, down from 44.6 percent a year prior. The decline was driven by unfavorable changes in foreign currency exchange rates. The company expects its gross margin to improve in fiscal 2019, in line with its long-term business model.
Nike will likely avoid two major headwinds it faced during fiscal 2018, namely North American market weakness and those unfavorable currency headwinds. Therefore, it is likely that fiscal 2019 will see the company return to revenue and earnings growth in North America along with an expansion of its profit margins.
Consider that 10 national teams in the current edition of the World Cup, including title contenders Brazil and France, will have jerseys provided by Nike, as well as pop sensation Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal. The company supplies four of the top 10 best ranked teams in the world and endorses soccer celebrities like Brazil’s forward Neymar and the Portuguese star, five-time world’s best player himself.
To try and assess the impact of the World Cup on Nike’s finances, one could attempt to estimate the increase in sales of jerseys and other soccer-related accessories and apparel products driven by the event.
Bloomberg reports that Nike’s soccer sales landed at $2 billion in 2017, in a declining trend that seems consistent with the period between World Cup editions. If accurate, this figure represents a rather small 6 percent of the company’s total sales in fiscal 2017, but likely a much larger chunk of the $9.7 billion apparel segment revenues last year.
Although the direct financial consequences are limited, the aspirational aspect of the World Cup, coupled with a solid global economy and discretionary spending trends that in turn look robust, can only bode well for a strong global sports company like Nike.
The intrinsic value of the company using a free cash flow to the firm is $92 per share. My earnings estimate for the coming fiscal year is $2.70 per share with a 12-month projected share price of $85, for about a 12 percent capital gain. There is also an indicated dividend yield of 1.09 percent. Nike has been raising its dividend for 16 consecutive years.
Lauren Rudd is a financial writer and columnist. You can write to him at LVERudd@aol.com. Phone calls accepted between 9 AM and 3 PM at (941) 706-3449. For back columns please go to www.RuddInternational.com.