Shares in NutriSystem Inc. leaped in after-hours trading yesterday, after the weight-loss company released fourth-quarter earnings and announced a $200 million stock buyback.
During regular trading hours, the Horsham company's shares climbed $2.34, or 5.6 percent, to close at $43.88. They gained an additional $5.46 later, reaching $49.34 by 6 p.m.
The share-repurchase program follows a 30 percent decline in NutriSystem's stock price late last month, propelled by fears that the company's growth was slowing and that costs to sign up new customers were accelerating.
Fourth-quarter revenue soared 92 percent to $133.57 million, compared with $69.62 million in the same period a year earlier. Net income more than tripled, to $19.61 million from $6.27 million.
Since Jan. 30, NutriSystem's outlook for the first quarter improved, with the company now expecting revenue of between $205 million and $215 million, an increase of $5 million on each end of the range. NutriSystem also raised its estimate of earnings per share to between 88 and 92 cents, up 7 percent.
NutriSystem's chief executive officer, Michael J. Hagen, said in an interview that the company's products for men and for older men and women were doing well. "We could be close to 40 percent men by the end of this year," he said.
Hagen said in a conference call with analysts that, during the first month of NutriSystem Silver - the line for older customers - the company was surprised to see that "husband and wife are doing it together. We may want to put some marketing muscle behind it."
James D. Brown, NutriSystem's chief financial officer, said the repurchase of up to $200 million worth of shares was the "most prudent use of our cash at this time," given the company's lack of debt and anticipated $180 million in operating income this year.
The costs of winning new customers, which were rising in early January, have come down over the last four weeks, closer to where they were last year, Brown said.
Hagan is among the investors in Philadelphia Media Holdings L.L.C., which owns The Inquirer, the Philadelphia Daily News and Philly.com. Brian Tierney, chief executive of Philadelphia Media Holdings and publisher of the newspapers, is on NutriSystem's board.
For NutriSystem's full fourth-quarter and year-end financial report, go to http://go.philly.com/Nutri4Q