The Street's Mixed Reaction To Weight Watchers: Concerning Quarter, But 2020 Is Key

Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NASDAQ: WW) reported mixed third-quarter results.

Benzinga · 11/06/2019 16:33

Weight Watchers International, Inc. (NASDAQ: WW) reported mixed third-quarter results. Here is a summary of how some of the Street's top analysts reacted to the print and management's outlook.

The Analysts

UBS analyst Michael Lasser maintains a Neutral rating on Weight Watchers with a $38 price target.

Bank of America analyst Olivia Tong maintains at Buy, unchanged $40 price target.

DA Davidson analyst Linda Bolton Weiser downgraded from Buy to Neutral, price target lowered from $44 to $33.

UBS: 'Fine' Quarter But Street Expected More

Weight Watchers reported a "fine" quarter but the level of growth but the Street was likely expecting "a bit more," Lasser said.

Subscriber growth accelerated from 1.5% in the second quarter to 5.7%, partly due to a marketing campaign and extended discounts. As such, total revenue fell slightly short of expectations and gross margins of 55.9% fell 300 basis points despite faster digital growth.

The stock will likely be determined after next Monday's new program launch, the sustainability of top-line performance, and contribution margin.

Related Link: Weight Watchers Soars, But These Analysts Remain On The Sidelines

BofA: 2020 A Catalyst Year

Weight Watchers' management team deserves credit for showing an "improved focus" versus last, Tong said. Specifically, management is better emphasizing the weight loss component of its programs after learning from past mistakes.

Heading into 2020, Tong said the innovation at Weight Watchers "screens fundamentally sound," especially in terms of personalization. The company can also see benefits from Oprah's 2020 tour and notably easier year-over-year comps. As such, the company has the potential to see "outsized" earnings growth, even if it spends more to support innovation.

DA Davidson: 'Concerning' Metric

Bolton Weiser said while subscriber metrics came in better than expected, there was no corresponding gross margin upside, which is "concerning" given the "dampening effect" on sales from a digital shift.

Near-term uncertainty related to uncertainty over the upcoming diet season and execution related to the new program takes precedence. As such, the research firm could re-evaluate its stance on the stock after results are made clear.

The stock traded lower by 15% to $31.83 per share at time of publication.