German sportswear firm Adidas said it expects sales to decline in the last three months of the year despite forecasting a return to growth in China, as coronavirus lockdowns return. 

The company said its third-quarter sales fell by a currency-neutral 3% to €5.96 billion, while operating profit fell 12% to €794m.

This was ahead of average analyst forecasts for €5.91 billion and €723m respectively. 

Adidas expects a similar level of sales decline in the fourth quarter based on more than 90% of its stores staying open and shopper numbers not being hit too much by new lockdowns. About 93% of stores are currently open. 

"While at the beginning of the quarter we were on track for growth in Q4, a worsening of the pandemic in many regions of the world is again requiring our patience and support," Adidas chief executive Kasper Rorsted said. 

Sales of the Reebok brand fell 7%.

Adidas has declined to comment on a magazine report earlier this month that it is planning to sell Reebok, which has struggled since being bought by Adidas in 2005. 

Adidas predicted a return to growth in greater China in the fourth quarter, even though the year-ago period was strong, and said it expects a fourth-quarter operating profit of between €100-200m. 

Sales rose 4% in Europe in the third quarter, but fell 1% in North America and 5% in greater China as initial pent-up demand faded after coronavirus restrictions were lifted. Ecommerce sales jumped 51%. 

German rival Puma reported a strong rebound in third-quarter sales in the Americas and Europe. 

Adidas also said it had replaced a loan it secured during the early stages of the pandemic with state-backed bank KfW with a €1.5 billion syndicated loan with partner banks.