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Nike 2Q Net Up 2.6% On Higher Sales; Margins Weaken

DOW JONES NEWSWIRES Nike Inc.'s (NKE) fiscal second-quarter earnings rose 2.6% as the athletic-shoe maker reported a better-than-expected revenue increase, though product costs continued to hurt its margins. Nike, one of the world's largest sporting-goods makers, has posted improving results for more than a year. But as sales have jumped in North America as well as in China and emerging markets, product-cost pressures have hurt margins. In North America, Nike's largest market, sales were up 21% in the latest quarter excluding currency changes, while emerging markets had a 26% sales jump. Sales rose 28% in China. However, sales continued to flag in Japan, slipping 7% in the latest quarter. For the quarter ended Nov. 30, Nike posted a profit of $469 million, or $1 a share, up from $457 million, or 94 cents a share, a year earlier. Revenue increased 18% to $5.73 billion. The increase amounted to 16% excluding currency changes. Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters predicted earnings of 97 cents a share on revenue of $5.63 billion. World-wide future orders, an indicator of growth based on estimates of product orders, were up 13% at $8.9 billion. Gross margin narrowed to 42.7% from 45.3% as cost of sales rose 24%. Gross margin has weakened recently due to higher costs for materials, labor and freight. Cost pressures first spurred Nike to increase prices last fiscal year and to consider more increases for later this fiscal year. Inventories were up 35% due to significantly higher average-unit-product cost and growth in total units. Shares rose 1.1% to $94.67 after hours. The stock, which hit its highest level ever earlier this month, is up 9.6% year to date. -By Nathalie Tadena, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-3287; nathalie.tadena@dowjones.com;

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