Analysts Cannot Keep Up With Herbalife

Herbalife (NYSE: HLF  ) released third-quarter earnings on Monday, and the results shocked Wall Street once again. I spotlighted it as a value play on back in February when it was trading at just $36.79; it has since rallied more than 65% to be up 106% year-to-date. Should Herbalife be bought on the report, or is it better to wait for it to come down a bit before picking up a position?

The nutritional supplier
Herbalife is a global nutrition company that offers its products through independent distributors in more than 80 countries. It offers products for targeted nutrition, weight management, energy and fitness, meal replacement, skin and hair care, and kids' nutrition. Herbalife has one of the best management teams in the industry that continues to innovate in order to keep up with consumer demands and trends.

Source: Herbalife.

The results
On Monday, Herbalife released record-setting third quarter results. It far exceeded analyst earnings expectations:

Metric Reported Expected
Earnings Per Share $1.41 $1.14
Revenue $1.21 billion $1.2 billion

Earnings per share grew an incredibly strong 43.9%, and revenue rose 19% year-over-year, while worldwide volume increased 13%. Herbalife's chairman and CEO, Michael Johnson, noted that this marked the 16th consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue growth year over year. The company also repurchased $110 million worth of its shares and paid out $30.80 million in dividends during the quarter, showing a strong dedication to increasing shareholder value. Overall, it was an excellent quarter and management raised its full-year outlook for the third time this year. There is not much more to say than Herbalife is firing on all cylinders, and investors should take note. 

Streaking since '08
According to The Wall Street Journal, this earnings beat makes it 19 consecutive quarters of Herbalife exceeding Wall Street's consensus estimates. This dates the streak back to 2008, which is even more impressive when you factor in that this was during the market's fall in the recession. I do not see any reason for the streak to be broken in the coming quarters, unless analysts become more optimistic and begin to raise their estimates based on this fact.

Year in review
2013 has been a year full of top and bottom line growth for Herbalife. It released first-quarter fiscal 2013 earnings on April 29 and second-quarter earnings on July 29. Here's an overview of those results, which led to the aforementioned third quarter blowout:

First Quarter:

Metric Reported Expected Year-Over-Year Growth
Earnings Per Share $1.10 $1.07 25.00%
Revenue $1.12 billion $1.12 billion 16.54%

Second Quarter:

Metric Reported Expected Year-Over-Year Growth
Earnings Per Share $1.41 $1.18 29.36%
Revenue $1.22 billion $1.16 billion 18.15%

Both the first and second quarter reports were record-setters for the company as well, showing strength in all areas of the business. After both releases, management raised the company's full-year outlook, and did all but flat out say that the rest of the year would contain explosive growth. Strong earnings have played an instrumental role in fueling Herbalife's rising stock price and the latest release will support a run much higher.

Secondary beneficiaries
The growing popularity of Herbalife and its core products have propelled online sales higher, which has directly benefited Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN  ) and eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY  ) . Amazon earns additional revenue from Herbalife because it is signed up as a professional account; it pays a monthly fee to list its products, plus it pays a commission on each sale. On top of these fees, Herbalife is enrolled in "Fulfillment by Amazon." This service allows Herbalife to store products in Amazon's warehouses and Amazon ships all orders out immediately after they are placed online; Herbalife is charged a storage fee for this and only has to keep inventory rolling in.

eBay earns a commission on the sale of each Herbalife product on its website, like Amazon, but it earns additional revenue when orders are paid for using PayPal accounts; and the majority of eBay purchases are paid for in this way. PayPal is owned by eBay, so not only will the company earn money on commissions from the sale, but again on PayPal fees paid by the merchant. It's up to the merchant whether to accept PayPal, but a good portion of users will avoid buying from sellers who do not accept it. Having popular brands opening stores on its site is a win-win situation for eBay, and provides the merchant with millions of new customers.

If you are not sold on Herbalife as an investment, take a look at the growing e-commerce companies like Amazon and eBay who benefit from it and millions of other companies and individuals selling hundreds of millions of products every day.

The Foolish bottom line
Herbalife is a "best of breed" company in a growing industry. With a forward price-to-earnings multiple of just 11.7 and a five-year average multiple of 13.4, it has become a value play. The company is a serial earnings estimates killer and can provide both price appreciation and dividend income for the next several years. The stock has fallen more than 10% from its 52-week high, providing a great entry point for value investors looking to pick up a position. Take a look and see if your portfolio could use the worldwide exposure to the nutritional products industry that Herbalife provides.

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Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2013, at 5:33 AM, asanr1247 wrote:

    No mention of it being a pyramid scheme?

    I guess that doesn't matter.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2013, at 9:20 AM, waltertschwe wrote:

    Joseph Solitro do you even know what an MLM is ? And you think this company is a value play ?

    Oh wait you grew up in Orlando that's where all these schemes grow out of. Welcome to New York City idiot.

  • Report this Comment On November 01, 2013, at 12:21 PM, adamjewl wrote:

    Ackman talked rubbish about the stock of HLF. This is not the first time he has said like this. Ackman predicts so wrong that if Ackman’s track records says or if he is betting on a company’s failure, buy the stock. If he’s bullish, sell. HLF has performed well in the previous quarter and it is expected to grow in future. I got these facts from: http://goo.gl/HH438v

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