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Nike Execs Upbeat at Analyst Meeting

New Nike president William D. Perez and other company executives gave an upbeat presentation Tuesday at an analysts meeting in New York.

NEW YORK — Nike Inc.’s women’s merchandise is a key focus for the company and a driver for growth domestically and around the world, said Mindy Grossman, the company’s vice president of global apparel, at a Nike investor meeting here Tuesday.

“We have had an evolution in how Nike is thinking of women and sport,” Grossman said. “There is a very strong connection between the gym world and outside … Women look for more than function in apparel.”

Grossman outlined a series of initiatives the company is taking to expand its women’s business, including new product categories and innovations such as dance fitness, women-specific footwear molds and new in-store Nike shops at department stores, with head-to-toe coordinated looks.

Grossman was one of a number of Nike executives who spoke to a packed house of analysts and investors at the company’s offices at 45 West 18th Street here. William D. Perez, the athletic company’s new president and chief executive officer, addressed the crowd in his first formal meeting with the financial community.

“We have unlimited opportunities to grow the Nike brand,” said Perez, who added that joining Nike has been an “amazing ride” and joked about how excitement at his last job came from killing bugs and cleaning windows. Perez, an avid runner and sport enthusiast, was formerly ceo at S.C. Johnson & Co., the consumer products giant. “The multibrand approach really excites us. While the Nike brand is the lifeblood, we will see increasing business from other brands.”

While executives overseeing different regions and product segments were on hand, Philip Knight, Nike’s founder and legendary ceo, did not attend the meeting. Knight is chairman but no longer runs the day-to-day operations of the company.

On Monday, Nike, the world’s largest athletic company, reported a 15 percent spike in earnings and a 6.7 percent gain in sales for the fourth quarter, driven by increases in most regions and product categories, although apparel saw a slight decline. After seeing its shares fall $3.58 Monday, Nike’s stock gained 2.6 percent on Tuesday to close at $88 on the New York Stock Exchange. On Tuesday, Donald Blair, Nike’s chief financial officer, reiterated Nike’s stated financial objectives going forward, including high-single-digit revenue growth, midteen earnings per share growth and continued gross margin expansion.

Perez said at the meeting that Nike also is looking to slow the growth of operating expenses, which have been a concern for some analysts.

All the Nike executives who spoke were upbeat about the company and its prospects for growth following what has been a particularly stellar year for the firm. Among those addressing the crowd was Scott Olivet, Nike’s vice president of subsidiaries and new business development, who spoke about synergies between different business segments. For example, Cole Haan has worked closely with Nike on its G series, which has Nike Air technology, while Converse tapped into Nike’s online customization program to launch a similar system.

Mark Parker, Nike brand co-president, noted the brand has gained acceptability in new categories recently such as skateboarding and is benefiting from new footwear performance technologies.

Eric Sprunk, vice president and general manager, global footwear, outlined a number of initiatives Nike has made toward what it calls “lean manufacturing” to reduce waste and improve speed of products to market, including a new “lean innovation center” in Vietnam.

While Nike has snapped up a number of companies in the last few years, acquisitions are not a priority now, Perez said during the question-and-answer period. “The bulk of our growth will come internally,” he said. “We are not actually pursuing any acquisitions now.”

In a separate development, Nike said it was launching a new performance footwear and apparel collection with Lance Armstrong called “10/2.” The collection is named after the day Armstrong was diagnosed with cancer. It ranges in retail price from $20 to $100 and builds on the success of the “Live Strong” yellow bracelets, a partnership between Nike and Armstrong to raise funds for the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help fight cancer. The bracelets were top sellers last summer and continue to be popular. The apparel and footwear can be purchased online at Wearyellow.com and at niketown.com and will hit Niketown and other stores starting Saturday.