NKE's China Comeback: Potential Upside Amid Stronger Consumer Demand

Some of the U.S.-listed stocks, including NIKE, Inc. (NKE), stand to benefit from the sizable monetary stimulus that the People’s Bank of China has unleashed recently. The Chinese economy has witnessed slowing growth lately, prompting PBOC to implement new stimulus measures.

New Stimulus Measures to Boost Market Confidence

Beginning February 5, the People’s Bank of China will allow banks to hold smaller cash reserves, said central bank governor Pan Gongsheng at a press conference. Also, reserve ratio requirements (RRR) for banks will be slashed by 50 basis points. That will release 1 trillion yuan ($139.80 billion) in long-term capital.

In addition, the PBOC said that there is room for further easing of the monetary policy. Lowering the reserve requirements that banks must maintain will increase the capacity for lenders to extend loans and boost spending in the broader economy.

Pan told reporters the central bank and the National Financial Regulatory Administration would soon publish measures to support loans for high-quality real-estate developers. Real estate troubles are one of the various factors that have weighed heavily on Chinese investor sentiment.

“It is a significant step from the regulators to enhance credit support for developers,” said Tao Wang, head of Asia economics and chief China economist at UBS Investment Bank. “For developer financing to fundamentally and sustainably improve, property sales need to stop falling and start to recover, which could require more policy efforts to stabilize the property market.”

To sum up, China’s economy could experience a boost from these latest PBOC announcements.

Evercore strategists screened for shares of U.S.-listed companies that have recently seen at least 10% of their revenues from China. Most are consumer companies that could witness a boost to sales in China since consumers will likely spend more than previously anticipated. Evercore’s list includes Nike, Las Vegas Sands, Aptiv, State Street, and more.

Talking about Nike, the sports apparel giant saw nearly 13% of its total revenue from China over the past year, as per FactSet. Now, a stronger-than-expected consumer in China because of massive monetary stimulus could unlock higher profit margins, more share buybacks, more earnings growth, and stock gains in the near future.

Shares of NKE have surged more than 2.4% over the past five days.

Let’s take a close look at the NKE’s fundamentals to analyze how the stock will perform in the near term:

Mixed Last Reported Financials

For the fiscal 2024 second quarter that ended November 30, 2023, NKE reported revenue of $13.39 billion, missing analysts’ estimates of $13.43 billion. This compared to the revenue of $13.32 billion in the same quarter of 2022.

Revenues for the NIKE Brand came in at $12.90 billion, up 1% year-over-year, but revenues for Converse were $519 million, a decline of 11% compared to the prior year’s period. NKE’s gross profit increased 4.6% year-over-year to $5.97 billion. Its income before income taxes rose 16.5% from the previous year’s quarter to $1.92 billion.

The sports apparel and sneaker giant’s net income grew 18.6% year-over-year to $1.58 billion. It posted earnings per common share of $1.03, compared to the consensus estimate of $0.85, and up 21.2% year-over-year.

In addition, NKE’s cash and cash equivalents stood at $7.92 billion as of November 30, 2023, compared to $6.49 billion as of November 30, 2022. The company’s current liabilities reduced to $9 billion versus $10.20 billion as of November 30, 2022.

However, Inventories for NKE were $8 billion as of November 30, 2023, down 14% compared to the previous year, reflecting a decrease in units.

Attractive Shareholder Returns

Nike continues to have a solid track record of investing to drive growth and consistently increasing returns to shareholders, including 22 consecutive years of raising dividend payouts.

On November 15, 2023, NKE’s Board of Directors approved a quarterly cash dividend of $0.370 per share on the company’s outstanding Class A and Class B common stock. This quarterly cash dividend represents an increase of 9% compared to the previous quarterly dividend rate of $0.340 per share. The dividend was paid on January 2, 2024, to shareholders of record on December 4, 2023.

“This dividend increase reflects our continued confidence in our strategies to generate sustainable, profitable growth, while investing for the future,” said John Donahoe, President & CEO of NKE.

The company pays an annual dividend of $1.48, translating to a yield of 1.44% at the current share price. Its four-year average dividend yield is 0.97%. Moreover, NKE’s dividend payouts have increased at a CAGR of 11.2% over the past three years. Nike has raised its dividends for 11 consecutive years.

During the second quarter of fiscal 2024, NKE returned nearly $1.70 billion to shareholders, including dividends of $523 million and share repurchases of about $1.20 billion, reflecting 11.9 million shares retired as part of the company’s four-year, $18 billion program approved by the Board of Directors in June 2022.

As of November 30, 2023, the company has repurchased a total of 65.9 million shares under the program for approximately $7.10 billion.

Lowered Revenue Outlook and Plans to Cut Costs

In December 2023, the management lowered its fiscal 2024 revenue guidance, partly due to weakening consumer demand in China. Nike now expects full-year revenue to grow nearly 1%, compared to the prior outlook of up mid-single digits.

For the current quarter, which includes the second half of the holiday shopping season, the apparel retailer’s revenue is expected to be slightly negative as it laps tough previous year comparisons, and revenue is estimated to be up low single digits in the fourth quarter of 2024.

“Last quarter as I provided guidance, I highlighted a number of risks in our operating environment, including the effects of a stronger U.S. dollar on foreign currency translation, consumer demand over the holiday season and our second half wholesale order books. Looking forward, the impact of these risks is becoming clearer,” said Chief Financial Officer Matthew Friend on a call with analysts.

“This new outlook reflects increased macro headwinds, particularly in Greater China and EMEA. Adjusted digital growth plans are based on recent digital traffic softness and higher marketplace promotions, life cycle management of key product franchises and a stronger U.S. dollar that has negatively impacted second-half reported revenue versus 90 days ago,” he added.

Nike continues to expect gross margins to grow between 1.4 and 1.6 percentage points. Also, the company is identifying opportunities to deliver up to $2 billion in cumulative cost savings over the next three years. Areas of potential savings include simplifying its product assortment, streamlining its overall organization, automation and use of technology, and leveraging its scale to boost greater efficiency.

NKE plans to reinvest the savings it gets from these strategic initiatives into fueling future growth, accelerating innovation, and driving profitability in the long term.

“As we look ahead to a softer second-half revenue outlook, we remain focused on strong gross margin execution and disciplined cost management,” Friend said in a press release.

The plan will cost the sports apparel company between $400 million and $450 million in pre-tax restructuring charges that will essentially be reorganized in the current quarter. Nike stated these costs are primarily associated with employee severance costs.

However, more robust consumer demand in China because of new stimulus measures could unlock higher revenue than currently forecasted by Nike.

Mixed Analyst Estimates

Analysts expect NKE’s revenue for the third quarter (ending February 2024) to decrease 0.8% year-over-year to $12.30 billion. The consensus EPS estimate of $0.76 for the ongoing quarter indicates a 3.9% year-over-year decline.

For the fiscal year ending May 2024, Street expects Nike’s revenue and EPS to grow 1.2% and 11.6% year-over-year to $51.82 billion and $3.60, respectively. Furthermore, the company’s revenue and EPS for the fiscal year 2025 are expected to increase 6.6% and 17.6% from the previous year to $55.22 billion and $4.24, respectively.

Solid Profitability

NKE’s trailing-12-month gross profit margin of 43.96% is 24.6% higher than the 35.28% industry average. Moreover, the stock’s trailing-12-month EBIT margin and net income margin of 11.76% and 10.28% are considerably higher than the industry averages of 7.63% and 4.56%, respectively.

Further, the stock’s trailing-12-month ROCE, ROTC, and ROTA of 36.03%, 14% and 14.24% favorably compared to the respective industry averages of 11.61%, 6.09%, and 4.01%. Also, its trailing-12-month levered FCF margin of 10.91% is 100.2% higher than the industry average of 5.45%.

Elevated Valuation

In terms of forward non-GAAP P/E, NKE is currently trading at 28.52x, 79.9% higher than the industry average of 15.85x. The stock’s forward EV/Sales of 3.05x is 147.7% higher than the industry average of 1.23x. Likewise, its forward EV/EBITDA of 21.96x is 119.8% higher than the industry average of 9.99x.

Additionally, the stock’s forward Price/Sales and Price/Book multiples of 3 and 11.93 are significantly higher than the respective industry averages of 0.92 and 2.52. Also, its forward Price/Cash Flow of 23.65x is 133% higher than the industry average of 10.15x.

Bottom Line

In the last reported quarter, NKE’s EPS beat analysts’ expectations, indicating the company’s cost-saving initiatives were underway. However, the sports apparel and footwear retailer’s revenue fell short of consensus estimates for the second quarter in a row.

Due to several macro headwinds, particularly in China and EMEA, management lowered its revenue outlook for the fiscal year 2024. Also, the company unveiled plans to cut costs by about $2 billion over the next three years.

For Nike, as a consumer company with significant revenue from China, stronger-than-expected consumer demand because of the new stimulus package could result in higher sales than it currently forecasted. Further, better revenue growth, especially in Greater China, could unlock better profit margins, more share repurchases, higher earnings growth, and stock gains.

Amid a series of government announcements indicating forthcoming support for China’s economic growth and capital markets, such efforts could help stabilize the stock market and stop it from capitulating and falling further, said Winnie Wu, Bank of America’s chief China equity strategist.

However, she pointed out a fundamental turnaround in the economy is needed for investors to return to Chinese stocks, which might take time.

Although Nike holds tremendous growth potential with an anticipated rebound in consumer demand in China, the company’s near-term outlook appears uncertain. Given NKE’s stretched valuation and uncertain near-term prospects, it seems prudent to wait for a better entry point in this stock.