One of Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF)’s most notorious bulls is a little less bullish on the company after its latest earnings report. Analyst Tim Ramey of Pivotal Research Group continues to rate the company as a Buy but has slashed his price target from $110 to $75 per share.
Herbalife Ltd.’s “messy” earnings report
In his report dated Nov. 3, 2014, Ramey notes that Herbalife’s adjusted earnings per share of $1.45 were in line with his estimate but lower than the consensus estimate of $1.51 per share. But the company’s biggest problem was the full year guidance it provided.
Herbalife lowered its 2014 guidance from between $6.17 and $6.32 per share to between $5.80 and $5.90 per share. The nutritional supplements company also introduced low guidance for 2015. Management projects earnings of between $5.45 and $5.75, implying that earnings will fall next year.
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The company’s sales rose only 3.5%, but Ramey had been estimating a 7% increase, while Wall Street had been expecting a growth rate of 8.7%. Herbalife guided for 2015 sales to fall by between 5% and 8%, compared to Ramey’s previous estimate of 7.5% sales growth.
Ramey also reported that Herbalife’s distributor counts were not as good as had been expected. The company reported a 7.8% increase, including 23% growth in China, 18% in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 7% growth in South and Central America. Growth in Mexico was 4%, while North America grew 4% and the Asia Pacific region reported a 5% growth rate. The total number of new members declined 5.1%, including a 16.5% decline in North America, a 15% decline in South and Central America and a 44% decline in China.
Herbalife Ltd. – Where’s the growth?
Herbalife’s guidance suggests the end of growth, at least for now. Ramey listed three reasons he thinks the company’s growth slowed in the second quarter. Of course currency weighed on the results, particularly the issues with the Venezuelan bolivar.
Second, the analyst points out that the nutritional supplements company must be seeing negative impacts from the new policies it has adopted. Herbalife has essentially reduced the number of distributors who are able to qualify for a supervisor position in one to two months. Also the company elevated distributor compliance to close some of the issues that have been brought up.
Third, Ramey questions how much Bill Ackman’s continued clamor around his short thesis on the company is affecting its growth. In addition to Ackman’s push, a number of former distributors have come forward and claimed that the company didn’t pay them and caused them to lose money.
Herbalife has said that the news narrative around Ackman’s short thesis is only affecting U.S. growth.
Herbalife’s long term possibilities
However, he adds that the company’s new compliance guidelines and the currency issues “are taking a pound of flesh” from its guidance for next year. As a result, he doesn’t think that next year’s low guidance “is the new normal” and continues to like Herbalife in the long term.
He also notes that there’s a risk from the Federal Trade Commission’s investigation but continues to think that regulators won’t find anything amiss.