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Currency War Is Bigger Threat Than Tariffs, Adidas CEO Says

Aug. 8, 2019
"There is no winner in a currency war," CEO Kasper Rorsted stated.

Adidas AG said it’s more worried about a currency war between the U.S. and China than the possibility that President Donald Trump will increase tariffs on footwear.

The German sportswear maker does as much as 45% of its business in the U.S. and China, and if the two countries weaken their currencies in a competitive tussle then it will ultimately come to hurt Adidas’s earnings when translated back into euros. There’s also the risk that such a conflict would slow down the world’s two biggest economiesーand everyone else.

“There is no winner in a currency war,“ CEO Kasper Rorsted said on a call with reporters after releasing second-quarter earnings that narrowly missed estimates. “Eventually everybody will lose because it will lead to a slowdown in the global economy.”

Fears of a currency war have rattled global markets this week, after Beijing moved to weaken the yuan amid Trump’s threat of new tariffs. Concerns eased slightly on Thursday when the People’s Bank of China set the daily fixing stronger than analysts expected.

Rorsted’s warning is significant because Adidas in May signed an open letter to Trump warning of the risks of tariffs. That document, also signed by Nike Inc., Puma SE and other footwear companies, said new levies on shoes made in China would be “catastrophic for our consumers, our companies and the American economy as a whole.”

The Adidas CEO said the German company was speaking for the footwear industry as a whole, rather than its own interests, when it added its name to the letter.

While the U.S. imports the “vast majority” of shoes from China, Adidas ships only a small number of products along that route, Rorsted said. The German company has about 20% of its manufacturing capacity in China, but many of the products made there go to local buyers, who represent about 25% of Adidas’s overall business, Rorsted said.

Shares Decline

The company reported second-quarter operating profit that was slightly below the consensus forecast and confirmed 2019 targets, disappointing some investors who considered that outlook conservative. The shares fell for most of the day, then plunged as much as 8%ーthe most intraday in almost three yearsーafter Rorsted told analysts that margins would decline in the second half of 2019.

“The market had expected more,” Volker Bosse of Baader Bank said by phone. “In general, they’re on track, they have not missed, but look at their share price. It’s priced for perfection.”

Shares were down 2.9% at 5:20 p.m. in Frankfurt, paring this year’s gain to 46%.

One drag on earnings has been Adidas’s need to fly clothing from Asia to North America to fill a supply gap. The company has spent more on air freight to compensate for supply-chain bottlenecks affecting mid-priced apparel in North America, which it said in March would cut full-year growth by 1 to 2 percentage points. The snags will probably affect the company through the third quarter, Rorsted said in an interview with Bloomberg TV.

“We are flying in products from Asia to make certain we can actually satisfy demand, which has been the constraining factor this quarter,” Rorsted said.

While Adidas results were broadly in line with expectations, they were not enough to “drive further excitement” among investors, given recent share gains, Morgan Stanley analyst Elena Mariani said in a note.

By Tim Loh

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Licensed content from Bloomberg, copyright 2016.

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