Nike, Under Armour taking hits from coronavirus outbreak amid NBA cancellation, shares fall

Key Points
  • Nike, Under Armour get downgraded on Wall Street amid the coronavirus outbreak.
  • The NBA suspended the basketball season indefinitely Wednesday evening, which could hit the sneaker makers further.
A man wearing a face mask walks past a Nike store in Central Business District, Beijing, China on February 17, 2020.
Andrea Verdelli | Getty Images

The coronavirus outbreak spurring the NBA to suspend the pro basketball season indefinitely could mean bad news on top of already bad news for sporting goods companies such as Nike.

"COVID-19 is impacting Nike's business inside and outside of China more than we initially anticipated," Susquehanna analyst Sam Poser said in a note to clients Thursday morning. "On top of which, the cancellation of the NBA season until further notice, announced last night, does little to assuage near term nerves."

Susquehanna lowered its price target on Nike shares to $100 from $115.

The stock was recently falling almost 12%, amid a broader market sell-off. Shares were hovering around $73.90. Nike's stock is down about 1.7% over the past 12 months.

Still, Poser believes Nike "will prove to be a stalwart once the dust from the coronavirus settles." Since the company has such a dominant position in selling athletic apparel and sneakers, it will bounce back faster than its peers, he said.

But in the interim, Nike's businesses in China, Europe and even in the U.S. are expected to take a hit, as the virus remains uncontained. U.S. footwear imports from China just had their worst January in a decade, for example, meaning shoes are not coming into the U.S. in as large quantities as they typically do. Manufacturing facilities in China, where 70% of footwear sold in the U.S. originates, are not yet back up and running at full capacity.

And many shoppers have shifted their spending to buying toilet paper, canned goods and cleaning supplies to prepare for the virus. Overseas in some regions, stores have gone completely dark.

"In the sporting goods industry, you are really at the end of the food chain," Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted told CNBC Wednesday. "That is what we are seeing so far in the first quarter."

Adidas is now expecting first-quarter sales to drop by up to 1 billion euros ($1.14 billion) in greater China and operating profit to decline by between 400 million and 500 million euros. It has not yet factored a global hit from COVID-19 into its full-year outlook.

Under Armour, meantime, in February said it anticipated the outbreak in China to lower sales by roughly $50 million to $60 million during its fiscal first quarter. That was, notably, before the virus started to hit Europe and North America much harder. Italy on Wednesday tightened its nationwide lockdown further in response to the rising death toll from COVID-19, ordering all non-essential shops and services to close.

Cowen & Co. downgraded shares of Under Armour on Thursday to a new price target of $13 from $15, citing the impact the company is expecting from COVID-19.

"Given industry conditions and the fluid nature of the COVID-19 crisis ... we would expect management to likely lower [2020] sales and earnings per share guidance given the deterioration in the situation since management issued guidance in late February," Cowen analyst John Kernan said.

Under Armour shares were down about 10% Thursday morning, hovering around $10.25. The company has a market cap of $4.7 billion, compared with Nike's $117.7 billion.

Nike is set to report quarterly earnings March 24, when it is expected to discuss the virus more in depth.

Suspension of the NBA season will have a "minor impact" on Nike results, NPD Group analyst Matt Powell said.

"Jersey sales will be hit. Performance basketball shoe sales have been challenged for some time now," he said. "If there is no championship, sales will be lost on champion merchandise."

Representatives from Nike and Under Armour did not immediately respond to CNBC's requests for comment.

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