Takeaway: $NKE is our top idea in Retail, and now both quantitative and qualitative factors are converging to the upside.

We think that price and fundamentals are positively converging for Nike on both a quantitative and qualitative basis. We like the name on both a TRADE, TREND and TAIL basis, and added it to the Hedgeye Virtual Portfolio accordingly. Here’s our rationale…



TAIL: Nike’s growth algorithm over the next three year time period based on our model is unmatched. With a revenue CAGR of 10% leveraging to EBIT growth of 15%, EPS of 19%, and Free Cash Flow over 30%, it’s tough not to be impressed. Considering that this formula belongs to what is likely one of the top 10 brand names in the world, and the leader of a duopoly in a GDP plus industry (sports apparel) with a bullet proof balance sheet, it is tough to not be impressed. If we’re right, the Street is underestimating earnings by 10% over this time period. That’s enough for us to get excited about the name here – even at a seemingly lofty multiple.






TREND: We think that gross margins -- the biggest factor impacting NKE’s sentiment and performance – will turn up meaningfully over the next three quarters. As the chart below shows, Futures has always seemingly been the biggest stock driver.




But it’s clear that something has taken over in the past six quarters, and it is clear to us – both quantitatively and anecdotally based on discussions with big institutions – that this is Gross Margin. Others might argue that it is China, or the sustainability of the ‘sneaker cycle’. We see the logic, but don’t agree with it. Our strong view is that once Gross Margins turn, then the stock will follow.  




Inventories have already started to move in the right direction, and we think that they’re cleaner today than they’ve been in two years. The relationship between inventories and margins is abundantly clear. FX also plays a big role, and at the current rate we’ll be back to yy parity within 2 months’ time.


Ultimately, the real delta to watch is ‘Futures less Inventories’ vs Gross Margins.  That accounts for demand (Futures) as well as the company’s ability to manage those orders in the form of inventory. That’s something that we’ve started to see turn, and we expect to increasingly move to the upper right as soon as 2Q which is reported in 3 weeks.




TRADE: The company reports the quarter in late December. We think that the 2-quarter streak of EPS growth rolling over will finally come to an end, and the consensus expectation for a flat quarter will be proved wrong. We think that expectations for Europe, China and even Emerging Markets remain very grounded. We’re at $1.06 versus the Street at $1.00, and we think that the company will be bullish about its look into calendar 2013.


VALUATION: The stock is trading at about 17x NTM earnings, well ahead of the 13x market multiple. That might seem unreasonable, but a) the stock is closer to 15.5x our numbers, and b) the market does not have the same characteristics as Nike with a path for a 10% sales CAGR leveraging to 30%+ Free Cash Flow.



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