Analysts Upbeat on Umbro Sale

Nike’s sale of British soccer brand Umbro to Iconix Brand Group should benefit both companies, analysts told Footwear News on Wednesday.

“We continue to view the divestitures as a positive for [Nike] as they should enable to company to focus and invest resources on the highest potential opportunities for the business, including Nike, Jordan, Converse and Hurley,” Citi analyst Kate McShane wrote in a research note.

The buy also gives Iconix a more robust presence in the athletic business, according to Brean Capital’s Eric Beder, as well as more international exposure.

“We applaud Iconix for creating a compelling strategic deal that also does not have the opaqueness and multiple financial levels we have seen in [past Iconix deals]. We believe Umbro should be a strong transaction for the company,” Beder wrote in a note.

“We view Umbro as an excellent addition to [Iconix’s] portfolio and believe there is significant opportunity to expand revenues in the U.S. market,” added Susan Anderson, Citi analyst, in a separate note.
According to Anderson, whether an exclusive license for Umbro, held by Dick’s Sporting Goods, will continue under Iconix remains unclear.

Nike first acquired the English soccer brand in 2008 for $582 million in cash. The deal with Iconix, announced on Wednesday, is for $225 million, or approximately the brand’s annual sales of $224 million.

The Beaverton, Ore.-based athletic company broke out the operating results of Umbro and Cole Haan, the fashion casual brand it is also looking to sell, for the first time in its first-quarter results last month. The brands’ combined revenue grew 4 percent in the first quarter, while earnings before interest and taxes were flat. (Growth at Cole Haan was offset by a decline at Umbro.)

Nike estimated a consolidated pre-tax loss from these businesses of approximately $25 million if neither was sold during the second quarter, and a consolidated pre-tax loss of $50 million to $75 million if both were held through the end of the 2013 fiscal year.

Despite the discount to the purchase price, analysts said the price was higher than expected given Umbro’s diminished brand presence and the number of high-profile team sponsorships that had been switched from Umbro to Nike.

“[Nike] did pretty well by divesting [itself] of [Umbro],” said Matt Powell, an analyst at SportsOneSource. “After it took an [after-tax impairment charge of $241 million on Umbro] in 2009, and pulled the Manchester and English national team sponsorships, virtually no value [was left].”

“[Nike has] been dismantling Umbro for years,” said Paul Swinand, an analyst at Morningstar Captial. “When you start piecing together history, we could have seen [the sale from] a mile away. [For years even before the acquisition] Umbro’s value dropped every time Nike took away one of its sponsorships.”

The Umbro deal is the second between Nike and the licensing firm: In 2007, Iconix purchased Starter from the Swoosh.

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