Under Armour - A Fascinating Journey

| About: Under Armour, (UAA)

Under Armour's (NYSE:UA) stock has been on an intriguing journey. At the time of writing this article it had closed at $104.76, up 23% from the previous day's close, following a great fourth quarter earnings report. This is an all-time high for the stock which has surged nearly 106% from $50.87 exactly one year ago. The company beat expectations with a spectacular quarter and continued its growth streak of 15 consecutive quarters of over 20% growth, with 35% topline growth. It raised its guidance for 2014 and the stock surged.

Interestingly, the last time I wrote about the company it had also completed another successful quarter with impressive revenue growth of 26%. Surprisingly the stock fell at the time despite the company's better than expected financial performance. The company was growing then, and it is growing now. Its stock has seen solid growth over a year, but it does not always move expectedly. I think the reason is because there is a great deal of coverage and expectations attached to it which can create bumps along the road. In addition, it also has a fairly high P/E ratio. But given its strong performance so far, could it still be a good investment?

Since the last time I wrote about the company there have been some developments that may give a preview of its future potential.

Q4 2013 Earnings: The Company validated the optimism around it by delivering solid financial results in the fourth quarter. It reported growth in both its wholesale and direct to consumer business with growth of 35% in Apparel, 24% in Footwear and 52% in Accessories. The company continued its commitment to push its Women's and Youth categories in Q4. It opened 5 new factory house stores while expanding 9 existing locations with a broader selection of items such as Women's and Footwear. In my last article I had noted the opportunity to expand the limited product lines of the brand being sold at many distribution points. So this is a step in the right direction to bridge that gap. Gross margins improved, supported by favorable sales mix and airfreight expenses and earnings per share increased 27% year over year. Overall the last quarter performance was another piece of evidence the company's strategies are paying off in quarter after quarter of strong financial performance.

MapMyFitness: The acquisition of MapMyFitness in November 2013 marked Under Armour's foray into the world of digital/mobile fitness. A connected community of over 20 million registered users, it allows them to build fitness routes and workout regimes while tracking and sharing their fitness experiences. It has a suite of popular apps like MapMyRide and MapMyRun and is integrated into over 400 "wearable tech" devices. But at a purchase price of $150 million, does this acquisition bring enough to the table for Under Armour?

1. MapMyFitness is a tool for Under Armour to go beyond being a seller of performance gear, and be a provider of a holistic customer fitness experience. While this enhanced experience would be a plus for its existing customers, the acquisition also opens up a platform that provides exposure to new, potential customers that have been using the forum.

2. A future, integrated ecosystem where all the needs of the customer including gear, fitness tracking devices, as well as interactive tools available on these devices, are all met in a one stop shop, is good for retention.

3. Information is an extremely valuable asset for a business. The analytics data generated by users of MapMyFitness is a window into customer behavior for Under Armour.

The company's stock closed about a percent higher than the previous day's close at $83.53 after the acquisition was formally announced on November, 14th.

Holiday 2013: The Company outperformed its major competitors during the 2013 holiday season, witnessing 34% sales growth based on heavy promotions and strong performance of its fleece line. Unlike the general grim mood for retailers this season, Under Armour's strong presence as an online retailer paid off in robust sales. Its fleece and ColdGear was also helped by the cold temperatures in this winter season.

Notre Dame: Under Armour made a splash earlier this month by announcing a 10 year deal with Notre Dame that is being touted as the largest financial commitment made by an athletic brand to a university. Under the agreement the company will be dressing and providing equipment for all men's and women's varsity teams at Notre Dame. While this is great exposure for the brand, it comes at a price estimated by ESPN to be near $90 million in cash and product. The university also got the option to pick up some company stock as part of the deal. While the company has had robust revenue growth and has a strong cash position, this is still a large financial commitment. So what does this deal do for Under Armour?

1. Simply put, it puts Under Armour on the map. Faced with much larger and more established competitors like Nike (NYSE:NKE) and Adidas (OTCQX:ADDDF), brand building is important for the company and it is taking it seriously. Being able to offer a deal attractive enough to replace Adidas's 17 year partnership with Notre Dame is a statement of confidence.

2. The well-known Fighting Irish teams are a good medium for the company to get more publicity and promote its brand domestically and internationally.

After reports of the Notre Dame deal came out on January 10th the company's stock touched a pre-Q4 earnings high of $88.75.

Winter Olympics 2014: The Olympics are undoubtedly amongst the biggest events in the athletic world and this year Under Armour is hoping to make a mark with its Mach 39 speed skating suit that has been developed through a partnership with Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT). A radical, new design that is expected to give U.S. athletes an edge in the competition, it has already generated a buzz as "the world's fastest speed skating suit" which is great from a marketing and PR perspective for the company. It is an indication of the company's innovation and marketing savvy.

Conclusion: Overall, I still think that Under Armour is a company that has a clear vision for growth, and most importantly, commitment to that vision. Its track record of strong financial performance has been supporting the growth story. But while this quarter the company's stock price soared with strong results, I still think that there are a lot of high expectations attached to it. Whether it is the holiday season or a quarterly earnings report, there seems to be a general positive outlook for the company's performance. And it continually has to outdo itself to beat those expectations. My view of the company remains unchanged since I wrote about it three months ago. It could offer long term growth to an investor who is willing to take bumps along the road in his/her stride.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours. I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it. I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

Additional disclosure: I am a self-taught individual investor and this article expresses my views based on my own research. I am not being influenced or paid by any organization to write this article.