There's no question shares of Nike, which are up close to 40% on the year, have been on a considerable run. But the "it" to which I refer has more to do with the company's ability to perform despite what have been brutal economic conditions in Nike's most important markets, including Europe and China.
Despite the tough environments, rivals Under Armour (UA) and Adidas (ADDYY) never could exploit an opening to catch Nike. The company's management was able to maintain its lead not only with continued innovating, but also a re-energized focus in product development. With revenue surging more than 7% in the June quarter combined with 1% year-over-year improvement in gross margin, it was clear to the Street that if China couldn't slow down Nike, there's no stopping this company.
Nike's reward has been a stock that has surged close to 60% since the company reached a pre-split low of $89.65 ($44.82 adjusted) per share 10 months ago (Nov. 14). After Nike's strong June quarter, during which fourth-quarter results beat on both the top and bottom lines, it's understandable why investors have gotten excited. However, I can't say that I see much value left in these shares at this level. It's not as if the competition is letting up.Take, for instance, Adidas, which is ramping up its innovation and recently signed a partnership with BASF (BASFY) to create Energy Boost. Adidas describes Boost as a revolutionary cushioning technology that provides the highest energy return in the running industry. Adidas claims Boost combines soft cushioning and responsiveness, two things that have been contradictory to athletes in the past. Likewise, Lululemon (LULU), which has begun to revolutionize the apparel industry for both women and men, shouldn't be understated either. Although the resignation of CEO Christine Day brought a chill to the company, Lululemon is growing three times faster than Nike while posting better same-store sales growth. I do understand Nike is much bigger and Lululemon still lacks the profits. Even so, Lululemon has created an entire market (yoga) for itself and has begun to encroach in areas like menswear and cycling.
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