By and  on March 23, 2007

Buoyed by strong sales in all global regions, Nike Inc. on Thursday reported steady growth in earnings and sales for the third quarter.

For the three-month period ended Feb. 28, Nike earnings climbed 8 percent to $350.8 million, or $1.37 per diluted share, from $325.8 million, or $1.24, in the same quarter a year ago.

Sales increased 9 percent to $3.93 billion from $3.61 billion last year.

"When I took this job 15 months ago, I said Nike's focus was on generating top-line revenue and profitability," said Mark Parker, Nike president and chief executive officer, on an earnings conference call. "Our third-quarter performance shows that we're keeping that promise."

Parker amended his statement later in the call. "We don't want just any growth," he said. "We want the good kind — the profitable, sustainable kind."

All of Nike's global regions posted sales growth in the quarter, boosted by favorable currency exchange rates. European growth led the charge, up 15 percent to $1.12 billion from $980.1 million, though 9 percentage points came from currency exchange rates. The Asia-Pacific region climbed 11 percent to $589.9 million from $532.3 million, with currency rates making up 3 points.

U.S. growth was the most modest, increasing 2 percent to $1.48 billion from $1.44 billion, with domestic apparel sales growing only 1 percent.

Nontraditional Nike business, including Converse Inc., Cole Haan Holdings Inc. and Nike Golf, continued to add to Nike's increase. Sales were up 15 percent to $522.7 million from $454.5 million.

For the first nine months of fiscal year 2007, earnings slipped half a percent to $1.05 billion, or $4.14 per diluted share, from $1.06 billion, or $4, in the same period the previous year.

In the first three quarters, sales gained 9 percent to $11.94 billion from $10.95 billion last year.

In other company news, longtime Nike frontman Lee Weinstein has resigned to start his own public relations and public affairs firm as of Sept. 1. During his 15 years at Nike, he worked in U.S. consumer public relations, global corporate responsibility communications and most recently, global employee communications. Personal highlights include launching Nike Shox, Presto and the Jordan brand,, and the brand's quarterly e-communications to stakeholders.

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