Merrill Lynch downgraded shares of Reebok International (RBK ) to near-term neutral from buy.
Analyst Virginia Genereux says several data points in the past week suggest Reebok may be losing momentum in the athletic specialty segment. She notes this is important because higher penetration of athletic specialty is a key initiative for the company in 2002. Genereux thinks Foot Locker, Nike, and Adidas are making strides that could potentially come at Reebok's expense. She notes Foot Locker said it is building a stronger partnership with Nike, while Adidas reported its U.S. footwear backlog for the end of 2001 was up 13% in constant dollars, reversing a three-year negative trend. The analyst sees $1.82 2002 EPS, rising to $2.12 in 2003. She kept her long-term buy rating on the shares.