Nike shares pop on earnings beat as US sales slump reverses

Key Points
  • Nike's sales in North America dropped 6 percent during the third quarter, while those in Greater China jumped 24 percent.
  • CEO Mark Parker says he sees a steady sales slump in the U.S. reversing.
  • Nike plans to make bigger investments in women's footwear and apparel to combat rivals.
A customer picks up a Nike shoe, deciding what size he wants to buy.
Source: Getty Images

Nike on Thursday reported earnings and revenue that beat analysts' expectations, fueled once again by international growth and momentum within China.

Its shares climbed more than 7 percent in after-hours trading following the announcement.

CEO Mark Parker also said he sees a steady sales slump in the U.S. reversing, as the company focuses on adding experiences to stores and scaling new products. He told analysts and investors that the current (fourth) quarter is already off to a good start in North America, owing much to the record consumer response for new React cushioning technology in sneakers.

Nike's net loss for the third quarter ended Feb. 28 totaled $921 million, or 57 cents a share, compared with net income of $1.14 billion, or 68 cents a share, one year ago. The company reported a higher income tax expense from new U.S. tax laws, which reduced earnings per share by $1.25.

Excluding one-time items, Nike earned 68 cents a share, 15 cents above forecasts, based on a Thomson Reuters survey of analysts.

Revenue for the period climbed roughly 7 percent overall to $8.98 billion, compared with expectations of $8.85 billion.

Sales in North America were down 6 percent, while those in Greater China jumped 24 percent. Sales in Nike's division for Europe, the Middle East and Africa grew 19 percent. Sales in Asia Pacific and Latin America rose 13 percent.

CFO Andy Campion said Thursday that U.S. sales should turn positive and grow again by the first half of fiscal 2019. Inventory has been reset, and orders from Nike's strategic partners in North America are building, he told analysts and investors.

In recent quarters, Nike has struggled to gain a stronger footing on its home turf, where shoppers are increasingly flooded with options from rivals Adidas and Under Armour. Still, the company has seen success overseas, which continues to boost the business.

Part of Nike's strategy to win sales includes selling more directly to consumers (thereby improving gross margins), making bigger investments in women's footwear and apparel, piloting a test with Amazon to rid the market of counterfeit goods, and launching of digital styling service Stitch Fix.

The company said Thursday it would begin testing mobile checkout in two stores ahead of a wider rollout. It also announced its acquisition of New York-based Zodiac, which helps retailers identify the customers who will be the most valuable to their businesses.

Nike meanwhile has found itself caught in the middle of growing complaints from female employees about its workplace culture, prompting multiple executive departures.

Jayme Martin, vice president and general manager of global categories for Nike, was recently ousted from the company. Part of Martin's job included overseeing Nike's women's business. His departure came just one day after Nike President Trevor Edwards resigned amid discontent internally over poor conduct.

"I'm committed to ensure we have an environment where every Nike employee can have a positive experience ... and reach their full potential," Parker said Thursday. He will continue to serve as CEO beyond 2020.

Earlier on Thursday, a source told CNBC that Bill Ackman's Pershing Square sold its stake in Nike, making around $100 million in profit from the investment. Pershing Square is believed to have started buying Nike shares in October. The stock has climbed about 3.5 percent so far this year.

WATCH: Pershing Square cashes out of Nike

Ackman's Pershing Square cashes out of Nike after 32% gain
Ackman's Pershing Square cashes out of Nike after 32% gain