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Why Nu Skin Enterprises Inc. Plunged Friday

By Anders Bylund - Feb 12, 2016 at 2:47PM

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The vendor of anti-aging products is having a hard time finding new customers, especially in China. Investors are feeling the burn today.

The company itself could use some performance enhancers these days. Image source: Nu Skin.

What: Shares of Nu Skin Enterprises (NUS 3.30%) set fresh multiyear lows on Friday morning, falling as much as 24.7% in the early going. Even after recovering to a milder 16% drop by lunchtime, the stock is still trading at prices not seen since 2009.

So what: On Thursday night, the maker of anti-aging products and nutritional supplements reported results for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2015. Earnings fell 19.5% year over year to $0.62 per share, while total sales declined 6.1% to $572 million. Analysts had been looking for larger numbers on both counts.

The company also announced a dividend increase at the same time. If this move was intended to soften the blow of a dismal quarter, it was a half-hearted swing at that fastball. The new payout will be $0.355 per share, a mere 1.4% increase from the former $0.35 quarterly dividend per share.

Now what: Management pointed to currency exchange trends as a key factor in the fourth-quarter swoon. Backing out those currency effects, sales would have grown 0.7% instead.

Digging deeper into Nu Skin's currency-adjusted revenue trends, it turns out that sales are going strong in the Americas with a 26% constant currency increase. Except for the breakeven North Asia segment, every other geographical market saw falling sales even on a currency-neutral basis.

Although we don't believe in timing the market or panicking over market movements, we do like to keep an eye on big changes -- just in case they're material to our investing thesis.

Nu Skin is set to launch a plethora of new products in 2016, which could spark some renewed growth in the flagging global sales. But those key launches won't turn up until the second and fourth quarters, leaving investors guessing in the meantime.

Management also refused to offer detailed guidance for its Chinese sales, even though Greater China is Nu Skin's largest business region by sales.

The struggles in Asia have turned this former high-growth ticker into a bargain-bin value stock with an effective dividend yield of 5.2%. So the downside risk looks limited here, especially since the company does produce consistently positive earnings and cash flows.

But it's still a risky pick, and Nu Skin needs to show that it actually can restart those stalled growth engines again. If not, those reliable profits could fade over the years, if it turns out that Nu Skin's 15 minutes of profitable fame have passed.

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