Nike shares dip after forecast disappoints

(Reuters) - Nike NKE.N shares fell as much as 3 percent on Wednesday after the company disappointed Wall Street by not raising its full-year forecast following a sales boost from its Colin Kaepernick ad campaign.

FILE PHOTO: People walk past a Nike store in New York City, New York, U.S., September 4, 2018. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri/File Photo

The campaign, along with Nike’s increasing efforts to woo younger customers with new sneakers and jerseys, had led to expectations that the company would lift its outlook for the year.

“A combination of heightened expectations going into the company’s results, a slight disappointment in gross margins, as well as tepid second-quarter guidance is causing a wobbliness in the company’s stock,” Wedbush Securities analyst Christopher Svezia said.

Nike CEO Mark Parker said on Tuesday following quarterly results that the marketing blitz, which marked the 30th anniversary of its “Just Do It” slogan, was driving an uptick in customer traffic and “record” customer engagement.

The ad featuring Kaepernick, first aired in early September days after Nike’s fiscal quarter ended, revived a nationwide debate that began in 2016 when the San Francisco 49ers quarterback began kneeling during the national anthem at games to protest police shootings of unarmed black men.

In reaction to the ad, protesters burned Nike shoes and called for a boycott of its products. Nike shares fell 3 percent the day after the ad was first aired.

Yet in the following weeks, analysts and marketing experts said they expected the ad to bring more attention to Nike and bump up sales.

Nike currently expects full-year revenue growth at the lower end of a high-single digit range due to a stronger dollar.

In the quarter ended August, Oregon-based Nike’s revenue rose 10 percent, beating Wall Street estimates. Profit also exceeded expectations even as higher commodity costs hit margins.

After the report, analysts remained bullish and at least five raised their price targets on Nike’s stock.

Morgan Stanley lifted its target to a Wall Street high of $103, well above the median target of $87.

“We advocate buying the dip as its margin expansion story remains in early innings,” Morgan Stanley analysts said in a client report, calling it their “top pick.”

The company’s strong fundamentals and gains in market share in North America, its biggest market, have kept Wall Street upbeat, with 22 of 37 analysts rating its stock “buy” or higher.

“The underlying fundamentals or the building blocks of the story are still intact,” Wedbush’s Svezia said.

As part of efforts to grab more market share from rivals Adidas ADSGn.DE and Under Armour UAA.N, Nike has focused on its digital platform and offered new lines of Jordan and React sneakers and World Cup jerseys.

Nike's shares, which have outperformed Puma PUMG.DE and Adidas with a 35 percent rise this year, were down a little less than $1 at $83.98 on Wednesday afternoon.

Kaepernick and representatives for the player did not respond to Reuters’ messages and calls requesting comment.

Reporting by Uday Sampath in Bengaluru, Writing by Sweta Singh; Editing by Arun Koyyur