Adidas outpaces Nike in North America and China

REUTERS/Joe Penney
REUTERS/Joe Penney

Shares in Adidas (ADSGn.DE) rose to a record high on Thursday after the German sportswear firm reported a bigger than expected increase in first-quarter sales and profits, outpacing rival Nike (NKE.N) in North America and China and growing fast online.

After losing ground to its U.S. rival for years, Adidas launched a big marketing drive in the United States to challenge Nike on its home turf, prompting consumers to snap up its Boost running shoes and retro styles such as Superstars.

Quarterly net profit rose 30 percent to 455 million euros ($496 million) on sales up 19 percent to 5.67 billion euros, beating average analyst forecasts.

Adidas shares, which have already risen two-thirds over the last year to trade at a big premium to Nike, were up 1.5 percent at 184.95 euros at 0952 GMT after hitting a record high of 188.95 earlier on Thursday.

Adidas, led since last October by Chief Executive Kaspar Rorsted, confirmed its 2017 forecast for sales growth of between 11 percent and 13 percent after accounting for currency fluctuations and net income to rise by as much as a fifth.

An Adidas logo is seen at the new Futurecraft shoe unveiling event in New York City, New York, U.S. April 6, 2017. REUTERS/Joe Penney

“This implicitly suggests a slowdown in the earnings momentum in the coming quarters compared to the first quarter,” said DZ Bank Herbert Sturm as he cut his recommendation on the Adidas stock to “hold” from “buy”.

Asked why he was not lifting the 2017 forecast after the strong quarter, Rorsted said Adidas had to make up for a one-off gain in 2016 from the early termination of a sponsorship deal with British soccer club Chelsea. He said the first-quarter had been helped by a shift in marketing spending to later in 2017.

He said Adidas was unlikely to meet a 2017 target for sales in Russia to rise 10 percent after a 10 percent fall in the first quarter, although he said that should not affect overall targets as Russia accounts for only 3 percent of group sales.

In its biggest markets, North America and China, Adidas sales rose 31 percent and 30 percent respectively, far ahead of the growth rates Nike reported for the quarter ended Feb. 28.

Like German rival Puma (PUMG.DE), Adidas has been benefiting from a shift toward retro styles and away from basketball shoes which has hurt Nike as well as Under Armour (UAA.N).

Adidas said quarterly growth was particularly strong in e-commerce, with revenues up 53 percent. Adidas announced a big push online in March, doubling its e-commerce sales target for 2020 to 4 billion euros from the 1 billion achieved in 2016.

Adidas also reported a rebound at its struggling Reebok brand, with a 13 percent increase in sales, driven by the training category and retro styles.

However, Rorsted said he did not expect it to keep up that pace for the full year as the first quarter had been helped by early product launches and the opening of new stores.

By Emma Thomasson | BERLIN

(Editing by Keith Weir and David Clarke)

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