Nike Inc. (NKE - Get Report) shares slipped lower Friday after the world's biggest sportswear group gave Wall Street a rare disappointment with weaker-than-expected fourth quarter earnings as marketing costs offset solid sales gains.
Nike said diluted earnings for the three months ending in May, its fiscal fourth quarter, came in at 62 cents per share, down 10.14% from the same period last year and 4 cents shy of the Street consensus forecast. Group revenues were slightly more solid, rising 4% to an estimate-beating $10.18 billion as Nike-branded sales rose 10% on a currency-neutral basis to $9.7 billion and China sales surged 15.5% to $1.697 billion.
Nike's marketing costs, however, resulting from a host of high-profile campaigns including last year's 30th Anniversary ads with the controversial former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, added 10% to the group's expenses tally, which hit $12.7 billion, and ate into its final quarter bottom line.
"Our SG&A growth in fiscal year '19 was a function of accelerating the investments required to drive transformation while gaining leverage in our core legacy expenditures," CFO Andy Champion told investors on a conference call late Thursday. "We are editing and shifting to gain leverage most notably within our geographies, where we're creating differentiated consumer experiences leveraging digital while optimizing on differentiated retail."
"One key financial measure that reflects Nike's unrivaled ability to turn strategic investment into competitive advantage and growth is return on invested capital. In fiscal year '19 Nike's industry leading adjusted ROIC expanded over 400 basis points," he added. "Going forward, we see continued strong growth, expanding margins, and high returns on invested capital as we drive strategic transformation at Nike through the consumer direct offense."
Nike shares were marked 0.5% lower at the start of trading Friday to change hands at $83.63 each, a move that would peg the stock's year-to-date gain at around 12.5% and value the Beaverton, Oregon-based group at just under $105 billion.
"In our view, the key to positive EPS revisions will be if Nike can start to deliver better SG&A leverage on ongoing solid revenue trends through the year," said Credit Suisse analyst Michael Binetti, who has an "outperform" rating on the stock with a $97.00 price target.
"Nike's long list of initiatives is clearly delivering strong rev growth in every region despite elevated macro uncertainty, but the key debate will be if Nike can pivot to better cost containment to drive the stock higher in the near-term," he added.