Nike sprints ahead as China sales defy economic slowdown

Fri Sep 25, 2015 12:39am EDT
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By Ramkumar Iyer and Adam Jourdan

BENGALURU/SHANGHAI (Reuters) - Nike Inc's (NKE.N: Quote) first-quarter profits outpaced expectations as surprisingly steep China growth boosted the world's largest sportswear maker, despite fears of a slowdown in the world's second-biggest economy.

The U.S. firm's global profit rose 23 percent in the three months to Aug. 31 as sales in Greater China jumped by nearly a third and earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) soared 51 percent. Nike described the China results as "amazing".

Nike's strong China showing bucks a wider trend of slowing consumer sales that has raised a red flag to global firms and markets. While consumption is making up a larger chunk of Chinese growth, confidence indexes are at record lows.

"While we are very mindful of the macroeconomic volatility in China, our brand has never been stronger and our marketplace has never been more healthy," Andy Campion, Nike's chief financial officer, said on an earnings call after the results.

China's economy is heading for its slowest growth in 25 years, causing a headache for firms from luxury carmaker BMW (BMWG.DE: Quote) to Dutch electronics group Philips NV (PHG.AS: Quote) and French fashion house LVMH (LVMH.PA: Quote).

Nike added sales in the market had been helped by overhauling its stores, faster online sales and a busy quarter for sporting events in the country.

An increased focus on health and the advent of sports-focused apps and wearable tech is likely to boost China's sportswear market further, HSBC said in a September report.

"More participation in sports and increased spending per person should amount to promising growth prospects," it said.   Continued...

A customer exits the Niketown store in midtown Manhattan in New York, in this June 25, 2015 file photo.  REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/Files