Nike Inc. (NKE), the world's largest sportswear maker, is set to outperform the broader market as it becomes more of a "technology company," according to one team of bulls on the Street.
In a note to clients on Thursday, analysts at Oppenheimer boosted their rating on the shares of the athletic apparel and footwear industry leader to Outperform, up from their previous rating of Perform.
Dominant Global Brand Embracing the 'Power of Digital'
The investment bank attributed its upbeat forecast to a "technological evolution" at Nike, wherein analysts suggest that management is embracing digital tools to enhance various aspects of Nike's business model including consumer connections, product innovation, and manufacturing.
"In our view, Nike represents an already dominant, legacy global brand that is now aggressively embracing the power of digital to enhance most facets of its business," wrote analyst Brian Nagel.
Oppenheimer expects Nike's new digital focus to help drives sales through more profitable direct channels, while minimizing markdown risk by producing on-trend products at a faster pace.
Street Underestimating Athletic Leader, Over 17% Upside in Stock
According to Nagel, the Street is underestimating the degree to which this new enhanced business model will improve Nike's performance, both near and long term. Meanwhile, internal initiatives at Nike should work to boost top line numbers, amid a broader recovery in the athletic apparel and footwear industry, wrote Oppenheimer.
"Over the next few years, the global sportswear market is expected to expand by an annual mid-single digit rate, with China and Asia-Pacific and Latin America outpacing more mature markets," the analyst said. "In [fiscal year 2018], international accounted for over 55 percent of Nike brand revenues."
Nagel's new 12-month price target on Nike stock at $90 reflects a 17.2% upside from Wednesday close. NKE's share price has increased almost 20% year-to-date (YTD), compared to the broader S&P 500's 2.8% increase over the same period.