New Dow Member Nike Scores 1Q EPS Beat as Margins Expand

By Matt Egan Features FOXBusiness

A shoe is displayed in the Nike store in Santa Monica, California, September 25, 2013. NIKE, Inc. plans to release its first quarter fiscal 2014 financial results on Thursday, September 26, 2013. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: BUSINESS ... SPORT) - RTX13ZXY (Reuters)

Nike (NKE) beat the Street on Thursday with a 33% leap in fiscal first-quarter profits as the global footwear and apparel maker enjoyed stronger gross margins and solid sales at home and abroad. 

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The stronger-than-expected report technically marks the first earnings report by a member of the Dow Industrials, which Nike joined earlier this week. Alcoa (AA), which traditionally kicks off earnings season, isn't set to report results until October 8.

Despite reporting revenue that only met expectations, Wall Street bid Nike’s shares almost 6% higher in extended trading.

“This is a very high quality beat,” Corinna Freedman, vice president of equity research at Wedbush Securities, told FOX Business.

Nike said it earned $780 million, or 86 cents a share, last quarter, compared with a profit of $585 million, or 63 cents a share, a year earlier. Analysts had been calling for EPS of 78 cents.

Revenue rose 8% to $6.97 billion, matching the Street’s view.

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Nike said its global futures orders, a closely-watched metric, jumped 10% last quarter, compared with a call from analysts for 8%. North American orders climbed 12%, besting forecasts for 9.9%. Inventories were up 6% as of the end of August.

Thanks to lower raw material costs and a revenue shift to higher margin products, Nike said gross margins expanded to 44.9% from 43.7%. Analysts had been calling for slower growth to 43.8%.

Freedman called the margin expansion “significant,” especially given recent foreign-exchange fluctuation struggles. “This is a nice inflection point for the company,” she said.

Nike enjoyed broad sales growth in most markets around the world, including a 5% increase in emerging markets to $902 million.

North American sales increased 9% to $3.14 billion as equipment sales climbed 13%.

Sales in Western Europe, which is slowly recovering from difficult economic times, rose 8% to $1.30 billion, while revenue in Central and Eastern Europe jumped 10% to $366 million.

However, Nike said its sales in Greater China slid 3% to $574 million as footwear sales fell 7%. Sales in Japan inched up just 1% to $158 million.

"We had a great first quarter driven by our unrelenting commitment to delivering innovative products and services to athletes around the world,” Nike CEO Mark Parker said in a statement.

Shares of Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike soared 5.76% to $74.39 in extended trading Thursday evening.

Nike has nearly doubled the broader market’s advance this year, soaring 36.3% through Thursday’s close, compared with 19.10% for the S&P 500.

Leading into the earnings report, Nike has rallied about 10% since the end of August, compared with a 1% dip for the S&P 500.

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