The company's sales growth had already started to decline in the fourth quarter of last year, when currency-neutral revenues rose by only 5 percent for the Adidas brand and the whole group. On the other hand, the group had experienced exceptional growth of 19 percent in the same period of 2017.
For the Adidas brand, double-digit growth in sport-inspired products and training, coupled with single-digit growth in running, was offset in the quarter by a drop in football-related revenues due to the timing of international competitions. At Reebok, sales fell by one percent, with a drop in sport performance offsetting double-digit growth in Classics.
Regionally, the quarterly currency-neutral sales picture for the whole group showed a softening in the growth in Asia-Pacific and North America, down to 11 percent and 9 percent, respectively. Greater China went up by only 13 percent. The trend was negative in the rest of the world – down by one percent in Latin America, by two percent in Russia/CIS, by 5 percent in Emerging Markets and by 6 percent in Europe.
In the generally weak fourth quarter, the gross margin improved by 0.5 percentage points to 52.2 percent, but the operating margin slipped by 0.1 percentage points to 2.6 percent. Net earnings from continuing operations increased by 29 percent to €93 million. The final net income for the quarter of €108 million compares with a loss of €41 million in the last quarter of 2017, which had been weighted down by charges of €75 million related to the U.S. tax reform.