February 13, 2014 / 10:42 PM / 5 years ago

Weight Watchers forecast disappoints, shares shed 20 percent

(Reuters) - Weight Watchers International Inc WTW.N, facing increasing competition from diet apps and calorie-counting gadgets, forecast a full-year adjusted profit far below estimates, sending its shares down as much as 20 percent after the bell.

Weight Watchers, which also announced plans to “resize,” said it expected to earn $1.30-$1.60 per share in 2014 - well below the average analyst forecast of $2.78, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

“The start of our year is proving to be every bit as challenging as we thought, if not more so,” Chief Executive Jim Chambers said on a conference call with analysts on Thursday.

The company said it would finalize plans to reorganize its business during the current quarter. The costs associated with the plan are not included in the earnings forecast, it said.

Wedbush Securities analyst Kurt Frederick described the outlook as “shockingly bad.”

“(Membership) trends have been bad, trends are bad now. Expenses are also not adjusted yet to reflect the declining business,” he said.

Weight Watchers said membership paid-weeks dropped 8.5 percent in the fourth quarter while the profit nearly halved, to $30.8 million, or 54 cents per share, from $58 million, or $1.03 per share, a year earlier.

Revenue fell 11 percent to $366.1 million.

Shares of the company, which suspended its dividend in the previous quarter, closed at $30.58 on the New York Stock Exchange.

As of Wednesday’s close, the stock was trading at a forward price-to-earnings multiple of 10.78, compared with the peer group average of 18.27. Weight Watchers rival Nutrisystem NTRI.O was trading at a multiple of 20.94.

Founded in 1963 by Brooklyn, New York, homemaker Jean Nidetch, Weight Watchers operates in about 30 countries. The company also offers a line of diet foods.

Reporting by Aditi Shrivastava in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian and Ted Kerr

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