Herbalife raises 2013 forecast amid clash of fund titans

Tue Feb 19, 2013 5:56pm EST

A news headline displaying ''Herbalife'' is seen under the DowJones electronic ticker at Times Square in New York in this January 9, 2013, file photo. Weight-loss and vitamin company Herbalife Ltd posted a 12 percent rise in quarterly profit, helped by stronger sales primarily in Asia Pacific, February 19, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton/Files

A news headline displaying ''Herbalife'' is seen under the DowJones electronic ticker at Times Square in New York in this January 9, 2013, file photo. Weight-loss and vitamin company Herbalife Ltd posted a 12 percent rise in quarterly profit, helped by stronger sales primarily in Asia Pacific, February 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Shannon Stapleton/Files

(Reuters) - Herbalife Ltd (HLF.N), the diet supplements company that has become a battleground between Wall Street titans William Ackman and Carl Icahn, raised its 2013 earnings forecast on Tuesday.

The forecast, however, excludes $10 million to $20 million in legal and other costs related to Herbalife's response to Ackman's allegations that the company was "a house of cards".

Ackman, who has taken a high-profile short position on the stock, argued that the company is an unsustainable scheme because distributors earn more than 10 times as much from recruitment as they do by selling its products.

Icahn, however, revealed a 13 percent ownership stake last week and a desire to explore strategic options for Herbalife.

The 32-year-old Herbalife, which sells products through a network of independent distributors, raised its earnings forecast to $4.45 to $4.65 per share for the full year, from $4.40 to $4.55 per share. Analysts on average were expecting $4.64 per share.

The forecast also excluded the impact of the devaluation of the Venezuelan bolivar.

Shares of the company rose marginally to $39.81 in trading after the bell on Tuesday. They closed at $39.74 on the New York Stock Exchange.

The company's fourth-quarter income rose to $117.8 million, or $1.05 per share, from $105.4 million, or 86 cents per share, a year earlier.

Revenue rose about 20 percent to $1.06 billion, slightly above Wall Street's expectations of $1.03 billion.

Sales in Asia Pacific, which is the largest revenue generator for Herbalife, rose 19 percent to $295.2 million in the quarter.

(Reporting by Arpita Mukherjee and Siddharth Cavale in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)