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Nike authorises US$12b in share buybacks, stock split

[NEW YORK] Nike Inc, coming off its most profitable year ever, plans to buy back US$12 billion in stock and split its shares 2-for-1.

The new four-year buyback plan will take effect when the current US$8 billion authorization is completed, which is expected to occur before the end of the current fiscal year, Beaverton, Oregon-based Nike said Thursday in a statement. The stock split will be in the form of a 100 per cent stock dividend payable on Dec 23 to holders as of Dec 9.

The announcement comes after the company said last month that it would boost annual sales about 60 per cent to US$50 billion by 2020, helped by growth in its women's and online businesses. Nike has seen its stock rise 31 per cent this year through Thursday's close as it continues to gain market share in categories like global football and running.

The shares rose 4.8 per cent to the equivalent of US$131.78 in early Frankfurt trading Friday.

Net income in the fiscal year ended in May rose 22 per cent to US$3.27 billion as sales climbed 10 per cent to US$30.6 billion. The company had US$5.92 billion in cash, equivalents and short-term investments at the end of the fiscal year.

The company, which last split its stock in December 2012, also increased its quarterly dividend to 32 cents a share from 28 cents.

In splitting its stock, Nike is taking an increasingly rare step among US businesses. Splits reached their peak in the 1990s when companies sought to broaden their appeal to individuals by keeping stock prices low. These days, fewer corporations care about their share prices reaching stratospheric levels. Inc, for instance, trades above US$600, while Priceline Group Inc trades at more than US$1,200.

Nike's stock has more than tripled since the end of the last recession, bolstered by the company taking market share from Adidas AG in soccer and increasing its presence in China and South America. Nike has also benefited from fashion shifting toward the athletic and casual - a trend known as "athleisure." And the company has streamlined its operations by selling off brands such as Umbro and Cole Haan.