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Under Armour (NYSE: UAA ) reported solid earnings before market open on Tuesday. UAA stock jumped 25% in response, but it still remains below its high for the year.
UA said it earned $75 million, 17 cents per share, during the September quarter, on revenue of $1.4 billion. Management raised its earnings guidance for the rest of the year.
But a look inside the numbers showed continuing trouble for the UAA stock. The sales improvement was entirely in international sales, up about 15% year over year. North American sales were still down 1.6% from a year earlier, reflecting continuing problems in finding new sales channels after the collapse of sporting goods retailer Sports Authority.
UA stock remains 60% below its all-time high achieved in late 2015, before the problems in its sales channels emerged.
Is UAA Stock Back or Not Back?
Analysts remain divided over Under Armour stocks's comeback. The company admits it is on a multi-year comeback trail, and has suffered layoffs while rivals like Nike (NYSE: NKE ) and Adidas (OTCMKTS: ADDYY ) remain strong.
There are two problems, neither of which has yet been fully addressed. There is the loss of distribution, which is why North American sales remain low. Then there is the company's decision to go into shoes, where it faced a buzzsaw of competition. Footwear sales were flat at $286 million for the quarter, although they remain up 4.6% for the year.
Under Armour is trying to get around its North American distribution troubles with a subscription service called Armour Box, and previously got distribution at Kohl's (NYSE: KSS ), a discount retailer.
While Under Armour has a few brand retail outlets in major markets, it still doesn't have the network of stores Nike has, let alone the company-owned store chain of Lululemon Athletica (NASDAQ: LULU ). I had suggested UAA buy Lululemon as recently as 2016 , when Under Armour was still worth about $16 billion. But the roles have since reversed, and Lululemon's market cap of $17.9 billion is now almost twice Under Armour's $9.5 billion.
UA has also been distracted by CEO Kevin Plank's plans for a new headquarters in Baltimore , a real estate development at Port Covington, which is only now getting underway .
Signs of Life for UA Stock
Still, the fact that Under Armour was able to maintain its shoe sales and grow internationally with fewer promotions thrilled investors , who are looking for green shoots at a company whose stock had been selling at less than twice its annual sales.
The company didn't make a big deal of this in its release, but it's also starting to pay more attention to its apps, bought for $150 million as Map My Fitness in 2015, when the stock was at its highs.
The Bottom Line for UAA Stock
Investors should be looking at UAA stock's Selling, General and Administrative costs.
These came in at $527 million during the third quarter, which means they should be below 2017's $2.243 billion when the full year numbers come in.
If Under Armour can just gain consistent profitability - its sales are nearly twice those of Lululemon -UA stock would have room to run. This depends, in turn, on getting better distribution channels in North America, and not losing the channels it has elsewhere.
Under Armour, and Under Armour stock, are not yet out of the woods, but there's some light peaking out through the trees ahead of it.
Dana Blankenhorn is a financial and technology journalist. He is the author of a new mystery thriller, The Reluctant Detective Finds Her Family , available now at the Amazon Kindle store. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @danablankenhorn . As of this writing he owned no shares in the aforementioned securities.
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