Herbalife Earnings Provide No Ammunition for Longs or Shorts

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Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF) reported first quarter 2013 results after the markets closed today. The nutrition and weight loss company posted adjusted diluted earnings per share (EPS) of $1.27 on revenues of $1.12 billion. In the same period a year ago, the nutrition and weight-loss company reported EPS of $0.88 on revenues of $964.18 million. The Thomson Reuters estimates called for EPS of $1.07 and $1.11 billion in revenue.

On a GAAP basis, Herbalife’s EPS totaled $1.10, which excludes a $0.10 per share impact related the devaluation of Venezuela’s currency and a $0.07 negative impact related to the cost of “responding to attacks on the Company’s business model.”

Those attacks, of course, were launched last December by William Ackman of Pershing Square Capital Management, and pit Ackman against activist investor Carl Icahn, who has amassed a healthy long position in Herbalife.

The company’s CEO said:

We continue to deliver record results in sales and profitability as our independent distributors successfully execute numerous growth strategies that enable deeper market penetration, developing customers using our weight management and targeted nutrition products every day.

The important thing about Herbalife’s earnings are the reactions by the short seller (Ackman) and Icahn and the rest of the long investors. Herbalife’s numbers almost don’t matter, as we noted earlier today in our preview of the company’s earnings.

The outcome is almost entirely in the hands of federal regulators. If one or another federal agency opens an investigation into Ackman’s charges that Herbalife is a pyramid scheme, that could effectively destroy the stock price. If no investigation is forthcoming, Herbalife presumably can continue operating as it now does.

Herbalife shares closed at $38.75 today against a prior 52-week trading range of $24.24 to $72.99. Shares are unchanged in after-hours trading. Thomson Reuters had a consensus analyst price target of around $58.10 before today’s report. That target price has fallen $5 a share since Herbalife reported fourth quarter earnings.

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