Controversial nutritional supplements maker Herbalife beat Wall Street expectations with its second quarter earnings after the close Wednesday, sending shares skyrocketing as much as 20% on Thursday.

Herbalife shares closed at $57.64 on Thursday, up $8.54 (17.39%) with more than five times the usual volume of shares changing hands.

Details on Herbalife second quarter earnings

The global leader in sales of meal replacement shakes, protein bars, vitamins and other products reported on Wednesday that it had second quarter earnings of $82.8 million, or 97 cents a share. Of note, that figure was less than the $119.5 million, or $1.31 a share, that the firm earned in the same period last year. Moreover, net sales were off by 11% to $1.16 billion from $1.3 billion.

Herbalife’s earnings have slipped over the last couple of quarters as new policies brought down amount of products new sales members can buy. The idea is to help new members slowly grow their businesses and remain with the company longer.

CEO Michael O. Johnson noted that almost 12% of the revenue decline was related to unfavorable exchange rates with several currencies given the current strength in the dollar.

That said, excluding nonrecurring expenses, Herbalife earned a solid $1.24 a share, beating company guidance of $1.05 to $1.15. This was a strong earnings beat given the consensus analyst estimate was for earnings of $1.11 a share.

The firm also boosted its estimated profit for the full year to $4.50 to $4.70 a share, from an earlier range of $4.30 to $4.60 a share.

Herbalife China sales were strong

Also of note, and a positive sign for the future, although sales were down in most large countries worldwide for the quarter year over year, they were up a robust 39% in China.

Ackman short bet against Herbalife Ltd. HLF

Bill Ackman, the founder hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management, famously placed a $1 billion short bet on the Herbalife’s decline in 2012, saying that the company is running a pyramid scheme. Herbalife denies the allegation.

Pershing Square shorted HLF at close to $47 a share and was around earlier this spring when the stock had fallen to the low $30s. Herbalife shares, however,  have been on a roll the last few months even though it was revealed that the Justice Department was investigating the firm.

The share price got a big boost when news broke a that federal investigators were also probing market manipulation of Herbalife stock. Ackman provided further detail a little later, saying that federal investigators had merely contacted a consulting firm he contracted with for his campaign against HLF, and that there was no actual investigation of Pershing Square.

Herbalife Ltd. HLF