March 22, 2018 / 12:52 AM / 9 months ago

China's Li Ning profit falls 20 pct, beats forecast

HONG KONG, March 22 (Reuters) - Chinese sportswear maker Li Ning Co Ltd on Thursday posted a better-than-expected 19.9 percent fall in annual profit, helped by online sales growth, tight costs and inventory controls.

China’s best-known home-grown sports brand said 2017 net profit fell to 515.16 million yuan ($81.5 million), beating an average forecast of 498.6 million yuan of 20 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters.

It posted net profit of 643.3 million yuan in 2016, including a 313 million yuan gain on the sale of 10 percent of table tennis equipment maker Double Happiness. Excluding the one-off gain, the underlying profit was at 330.3 million yuan.

Chairman Li Ning said in an earnings statement that consumers were looking for “more refined and mature” products.

The company would focus on building the “experience value” of its products, as well as combining sportswear with fashion, entertainment and leisure, he added.

Total revenue increased 10.7 percent to 8.87 billion yuan for the year, while gross profit margin expanded 0.9 percentage points to 47.1 percent. Overall same-store-sales posted mid-single digit growth.

The number of Li Ning-brand outlets or sales counters in China amounted to 6,262 as of end-December, a net decrease of 178 from end of last year.

Last month, China’s biggest sportswear retailer by market value, ANTA Sports Products Ltd, booked record annual profit for a third straight year on booming demand in the mainland for sportswear and sporting goods, and said it was now planning to make a major push overseas. ($1 = 6.3200 Chinese yuan renminbi) (Reporting by Donny Kwok; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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