Promotional management teams just drive me batty. I tend to take a Sgt. Friday approach ("Just the facts, ma'am") to investing, and I don't like it when companies celebrate growth outside context. I have been hard on Weight Watchers
On the surface, the second quarter was a good one for this provider of clinically proven weight loss solutions. Revenue grew 18% as reported, and the company's stand-alone business grew the top line at 17%. If you strip out charges related to the company's ongoing acquisition of WeightWatchers.com, net income climbed 14% and EPS climbed 18%. Heck, even attendance was up 6.5%.
Now for the problems. Yes, total attendance was up 6.5% from last year. But what the company doesn't mention is that attendance last year was down about 7%. So if you look at a two-year compound growth figure for attendance, you see a 1% drop. Not a disaster at all, but not good, either. Growth that comes on the back of easy comps isn't exactly the same as growth from a solid foundation.
I feel likewise about the revenue and EPS numbers. If you look at two-year comparisons, you see revenue growth of 10% and EPS growth of about 9%. Again, these aren't bad numbers, but I feel that prospective investors must look at this quarter's results in a broader context. With that said, let me slide my soapbox back under my desk.
I don't know how much of this recovery in Weight Watchers is due to positive management actions and how much is due to the inevitable demise of the low-carb fad, but I do know that the company continues to generate copious cash flow relative to its revenue. That in turn lets me breathe a bit easier about its debt load.
On a related note, investors worried about the weight-loss company's current negative shareholder's equity shouldn't be, since it has to do with the agreement to repurchase WeightWatchers.com at year end.
While I like the idea of Weight Watchers the company, I don't feel the same way about the stock. True, weight loss is a great macro trend to play, and the shares of rival Nutri/System
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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).