Under Armour shares perk up on Jefferies upgrade

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Under Armour shares jogged higher on Friday after analysts at Jefferies upgraded the stock citing data from a survey that shows the brand has strengthened and arguing that “overly-negative sentiment creates a buying opportunity”.

Shares in the Maryland-based retailer rose 4 per cent to $18.13 — its biggest one-day gain since December — after analysts at Jefferies lifted their rating on the stock to “buy” from “hold” and raised their price target to $27, from $19 previously.

That helped the bull camp on Wall Street grow, giving the stock its eighth “buy” rating. Under Armour has 22 “hold” ratings and 5 “sell” ratings, according to Bloomberg data.

Jefferies refreshed its survey of 2,000 consumers across the US and found that compared to three years ago, they have greater recognition of the Under Armour brand and think it is less expensive.

40 per cent polled this time around thought Under Armour was expensive, compared with 62 per cent three years ago, the survey found. “We view survey responses related to perceived affordability as equally favourable, and indicative of consumers attaching a greater view of value to UA product for the price paid,” Randal Konik, an analyst at Jefferies, said.

Moreover, while Under Armour did lose market share to Adidas last year — 18 per cent said Under Armour was the brand of athletic apparel the most liked to wear, compared with 21 per cent for Adidas, compared with 20 per cent and 13 per cent respectively three years ago.

Mr Konik also said Adidas’ share gains are peaking.

Companies like Under Armour, Nike, and Lululemon have in recent years been beneficiaries of the so-called athleisure trend that sees people wear work out gear even when they are not exercising. And there has been some concern about slowing momentum in athleisure as denim appears to be making a comeback.

But the survey also showed that compared to three years ago nearly double the respondents had purchased athletic apparel in the past 12 months. And 10 per cent more wear athletic apparel while not physically active at least four to five times a week. And he argues that the company’s lifestyle assortment with tailored jackets and streamlined trousers could “highlight a new opportunity theoretically broader than even athletic”.

Finally, Mr Konik notes that Under Armour is the most heavily-shorted stock in the S&P 500 consumer discretionary index, with 24.4 per cent of the float sold short, as the company has posted downbeat results and lowered guidance over the past two quarters. But he sees many avenues for growth at Under Armour, especially overseas and in women’s categories, and argues that the company stands to benefit from proposed tax reforms.

“Current trading levels are unwarranted, particularly given other brands (e.g., Adidas) have traded higher with worse fundamentals,” he said.

The once high-flying company has seen its fall nearly 33 per cent so far this year, on top of a 30 per cent drop in 2016.

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