Sportswear giant Nike Inc on Thursday posted a sharp rise in first quarter net profit as it was boosted by strong revenue growth to a record $3.02 billion from $2.8bn in the year-ago period.

The Oregon-based company reported a net profit of $261.2 million, or 98 cents a share, for the quarter ended August 31, versus a year-earlier net loss of $48.9m, or 18 cents a share, when it was hurt by a hefty accounting change.

Nike said gross margins rose 1.6 percentage points to 43 per cent with worldwide futures orders for athletic shoes and clothing scheduled for delivery from September 2003 through January 2004, up 10.5 per cent year-on-year to $3.7bn.

It added futures orders fell three per cent in the US, but climbed 28 per cent in Europe, 19 per cent in the Asia Pacific region and nine per cent in the Americas.

Total sales rose 17 per cent in the European region (which includes the Middle East and Africa) to $1.01bn from $869.3m for the same period last year mainly due to changes in currency exchange rates.

Sales in the Asia Pacific region climbed 13 per cent to $348.3m from $307.8m with sales in the Americas up eight per cent to $153.7m from $142.3m last year.

It said footwear revenues in the Americas jumped 11 per cent to $103.1m, apparel revenues increased two per cent to $39.4m and equipment improved five per cent to $11.2m.

Other revenues, which include Nike Golf, Bauer Nike Hockey Inc, Cole Haan, and Hurley International LLC, grew 32 per cent to $255.5m from $194.2 million last year.

Delighted Nike chairman and CEO, Philip Knight, said: "Nike's first quarter results reflect another great quarter in which global brand strength and superior product, combined with a favourable currency exchange environment, drove worldwide business results to record levels.

"Once again, momentum in Nike's international markets continued to fuel the business as international futures increased 23 per cent.

"While Nike's USA futures declined three per cent, we are confident that our largest business, USA footwear, is on the right track based on positive footwear futures growth.

"In addition, our profitability has grown and consumers are responding to our brand and the full range of Nike's performance and active life product offerings."