NutriSystem, Inc. Q2 2009 Earnings Call Transcript

| About: Nutrisystem Inc (NTRI)
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NutriSystem, Inc. (NASDAQ:NTRI) Q2 2009 Earnings Call July 29, 2009 4:30 PM ET


Cindy Warner – Investor Relations

Joseph M. Redling – Chief Executive Officer

David Clark – Chief Financial Officer


Gregory Badishkanian - Citigroup

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

Analyst for James Duffy – Thomas Weisel Partners


Good afternoon, at this time I’d like to welcome everyone to the NutriSystem second quarter 2009 earnings conference call. (Operator Instructions) I would now like to turn the presentation over to your host for today’s call, Ms. Cindy Warner, Investor Relations.

Cindy Warner

Good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining us to discuss NutriSystem’s second quarter 2009 financial results. With us today from management are Joe Redling, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, and David Clark, Chief Financial Officer.

Before we begin I’d like to remind everyone that this announcement contains forward-looking statements that involve risks and uncertainties. Such information includes statements about NutriSystem’s second quarter 2009 financial results as well as statements that are preceded by, followed by or include the words believes, plans, intends, expects, anticipates or similar expressions. Statements regarding NutriSystem’s plans and expectations for the third quarter of 2009 and the full year 2009 and similar statements that are not statements of historical fact constitute forward-looking statements. For such statements, NutriSystem claims protection of the Safe Harbor for forward-looking statements contained in the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995.

Actual results may differ materially from the results predicted and the reported results should not be considered an indication of future performance. Factors that could cause actual results to differ from those contained in the forward-looking statements include, but are not limited to, those factors set forth in NutriSystem’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended December 31, 2008, which has been filed with the SEC. NutriSystem is making these statements as of July 29, 2009 and assumes no obligation to publicly update or revise any of the forward-looking information in this announcement.

And with that I’d like to turn the call over to Joe Redling, our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.

Joseph M. Redling

Good afternoon and thank you for joining us on today's conference call. The second quarter challenged our company with continued pressure on our top line. Despite these challenges, we continued our efforts to position ourselves for profitability and growth when the economy turns around.

During the quarter we transitioned to new marketing leadership, launched NutriSystem D, commenced a comprehensive cost reduction program, including consolidating our IT department into marketing and operations. As previously announced, all these factors affected our profitability in the quarter, but we believe they have positioned us as a stronger company for the future.

I will review the company's second quarter 2009 results with some key highlights and David will provide more detail on the financials in a few minutes.

Second quarter revenues came in at $132.0 million versus $194.0 million a year ago.

Gross margin for Q2 2009 was 53.8%, up 180 basis points as compared to 52% a year ago.

Marketing as a percentage of revenue was 27% behind the Diabetic launch, down from 29% in the first quarter and higher than a year ago at 22%.

Adjusted EBITDA was up $16.3 million, down versus prior year of $39.5 million and we continue to be debt free and have $74.0 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities on hand at the end of the second quarter.

We also announced that we will be paying our regular dividend in August.

As I mentioned, in our marketing organization we have had a recent change in leadership. Chris Terrill is our new Chief Marketing Officer. Chris has a deep background in e-commerce and oversaw the complete revamp of our Web site and web platform. Chris has been with NutriSystem since 2007, heading the e-commerce area, and is ready to lead an integrated effort across all channels to continue to build our brand and to drive innovation and improvement throughout the marketing organization.

Internet Retailer has recognized NutriSystem as the number one food and drug e-retailer as well as part of the top 50 overall e-retailers. Chris's leadership and expertise dovetailed nicely with our decision to place the IT professionals in with their operating organizations and we look forward to great things.

As I mentioned during the call in April, the spring volume bump we saw around Easter was not as large or as long lived as we would have hoped and trends worsened as seasonality diminished and softness in new customers starts, excluding the Diabetic launch. While it is too early to say that things have turned completely, we do think the worst is behind us.

Despite continued lower consumer confidence, late in the second quarter and into July we saw improving trends in our core business, led by both the incremental contributions from our NutriSystem D launch and the improved results from our new marketing efforts launched in July.

We do expect the general market to remain soft for the balance of the year as compared to prior-year performance but we are seeing more stability and slight improvements in customer demand, which is somewhat encouraging.

The successful launch of NutriSystem D and the markets initial response has validated the opportunity this new segment presents for our business. I believe that we now have a diverse and well-segmented product lineup that will effectively position us to gain share once we see a recovery in overall discretionary spending.

Let me share some details on the marketing launch of NutriSystem D. The reception has been first rate. The program stands on its own claims and hasn't required promotion offers to drive interest. You will recall that there are nearly 24.0 million in the U.S. with diabetes, and an addition 57.0 million people who are either pre-diabetic or have impaired glucose tolerance.

In a three-month clinical study at Temple University School of Medicine, people with Type II diabetes who needed to lose weight, while on NutriSystem D program lost 16x more weight, lowered their blood sugar levels 5x more, lowered their A1Cs by 0.9%, lowered their cholesterol level by 22 mgs, and lowered their triglyceride level by 44 mgs, as compared to those following a hospital-directed diet and educational plan.

These results will be published online in August with the Journal of Postgraduate Medicine and in print in September.

Prior to our launch, only 9% of diabetic dieters followed a commercial weight loss program. The NutriSystem D customer is typically a baby boomer, with a 40/60 male/female split. While it is too early to report numbers, we anticipate the diabetic customer will stay on the program longer than the non-diabetic customer, as they often have more weight to lose and the health benefits from weight loss make them more committed to the program and less price sensitive.

This, and a larger proportion of men, as compared to our core program, should on average drive higher profitability per customer for NutriSystem D. We are very excited to be able to serve this large market with such an efficacious product.

This is what our business is all about: developing products to empower our customers to improve their health and wellness. I am very proud of our entire team for working so hard to develop and provide this much needed service to the millions of people challenged with this disease. I know we are positively affecting the lives of many as we receive a constant stream of fantastic customer testimonials and thanks for helping them change their lives for the better.

Shifting to the marketing effort for D, we have also been successful in managing our marketing efficiency as we launched into this new segment. In fact, despite an aggressive introductory media investment, we are now seeing our marketing efficiency levels near our core business and as we continue to optimize our channel, we believe we will actually improve overall acquisition efficiency.

The combination of both very profitable customer economics and an efficient acquisition model will, we believe, make the diabetic segment a very important contributor to our business long term.

Let me now review briefly our overall marketing efficiency for the quarter. Overall, marketing spend represented 27% of Q2 revenues. This represents a sequential improvement of 200 basis points from Q1. This result is, however, above our normalized levels for the second quarter. This was driven primarily by our investment spending associated with the launch of NutriSystem D. We believe this slight increase in spend was necessary to effectively establish this new product targeted at a brand new customer segment.

Our media mix now supports three distinct businesses: women, men, and diabetic. As we continue to optimize our media mix across these three segments, we will return to a more normalized efficiency level for marketing spend.

Let's turn to the balance of our product lineup for a brief update. In Q3 we will see the revamp of the Select line into a two-plus-two proposition. Two weeks of frozen meals from our Schwan's alliance and two weeks of ready-to-go meals. This is in response to consumer feedback requesting more of the fresh frozen foods in the one-month program. Working with Schwan's we have been able to make that improvement with minimal gross margin impact.

The flex option continues to be a viable choice for the customer seeking greater flexibility in meal planning. The pricing we implemented back in March has been supported during the second quarter and we expect that to stand for the duration of the year.

We continue to be active with Costco in the retail channel. We see our unique retail card program as a great way to reach additional consumers in new channels while still staying true to our direct-to-consumer model.

I will take just a moment to go into the details on how the retail channel works for those not familiar with the process. At Costco the consumer purchases a card for a one-month program. The customer takes this home and activates the card online at or on the phone via our own call center. We now have the relationship directly with the customer so we can provide support in their weight-loss journey with our online tools and community.

This also allows us to work directly with them to convert them to an auto-ship customer to continue their weight loss activities. This customer is immediately profitable, the cannibalization has been minimal, and in fact, appears to be converting database leads that had not made a purchase previous to the Costco launch.

We see this as more than just a placement channel for our cards. This is a highly effective marketing channel with unique promotional vehicles targeting new retail customers. Therefore, we continue to be interested in expanding this channel and expect to have more to announce on this front in the coming months.

And finally, QVC remains a solid contributor and is performing to expectations in this difficult environment.

Another area I want to emphasize is the revenue from returning customers. In the second quarter this revenue was the same as a year ago and we foresee this continued stability throughout the balance of the year.

Throughout the recession there has been a reluctance to spend with the first-time customer sector. But those that have experienced the value proposition we offer, often see us as part of their daily lives and therefore their non-discretionary spending.

Before I turn the call over to David, let me summarize a few key points. First, effective marketing. Our NutriSystem D launch has gone well and while it is still early, we are excited about the future of this program, not only for the profitability it provides but also for the help we can bring to people with diabetes.

The strength of our business model. Even in a recession we can successfully launch a new product and still control our costs across all areas of the business and improve our supply chain processes to drive gross margins up.

Our business continues to generate strong free cash flow during tough economic times and our team has done an excellent job balancing the need for expense management and cost controls, with innovation and strategic investments in growth via new products.

With that, I will turn it over to David Clark, our CFO.

David Clark

Now let's go through second quarter results. For the second quarter of 2009 we generated $131.8 million in revenues, a 32% decrease over prior year.

Gross margin came in at 53.8%, up 180 basis points from 52.0% a year ago.

Marketing as a percentage of sales was 27%, a high in the marketing launch of NutriSystem D in Q2 as compared with 22% a year ago and is on track for a mid-to-upper-20% range for the full year.

Strategically, we decided to abandon our investment in Zero Water in the second quarter, therefore we expect to take a pre-tax charge of $3.6 million to write off the remaining investment.

We also previously announced a $1.3 million cost in G&A expenses associated with right-sizing our organization. In connection with this right-sizing we eliminated positions or reduced hours for approximately 15% of our workforce. In addition, we better aligned dour IT efforts by consolidating those departments under our existing marketing and operating areas, to both achieve efficiency and streamlined decision making.

We also went through a comprehensive review of our spending for outside services, such as consulting, and established reduction targets for 2009 and beyond.

These changes in plans are essentially completed and will continue to project a $5.0 million to $8.0 million reduction in cost for the second half of 2009 as a result of these cutbacks and other non-labor G&A cost-cutting initiatives.

For the second quarter of 2009 our direct channel, including retail-driven sales, generated 93% of our revenue. QVC generated 6% and less than 1% of our revenue came from other channels.

Importantly, reactivation revenue was flat compared to the second quarter of last year, at approximately $36.0 million.

Q2 2009 operating income from continuing operations was $11.4 million and represented an 8.6% operating margin. Our second quarter 2009 adjusted EBITDA came in at $16.3 million. Depreciation and amortization was $2.7 million and our non-cash employee stock compensation totaled $2.2 million. Adjusted EBITDA margin was 12.4%.

We expect the effective tax rate for the second quarter of 2009 to be negative due to the write-off of our interest in Zero Water, as we expect a $4.9 million reduction in taxes as a result of this action. We will finalize the accounting treatment of this item with the filing of our second quarter 10-Q. We are forecasting an effective tax rate of 37% for the full year on operations.

Our expected fully diluted EPS is $0.28 a share, down from $0.69 a year ago and non-cash employee stock compensation had approximately a $0.05 impact on earnings per share.

From a liquidity standpoint, on June 30, 2009, we had $73.7 million in cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities, compared to $38.3 million at the beginning of the year, and we continue to be invested in Treasury, U.S. agency-backed, and money market fund accounts.

Capital expenditures for the second quarter were $2.8 million as compared to $3.1 million for the same quarter of 2008 and we plan for capital expenditures in 2009 to come in below $10.0 million.

Our unused $200.0 million credit facility remains available should we need it.

We ended the second quarter with inventory of $30.0 million as compared with $51.0 million at the end of 2008.

As Joe mentioned, the board of directors has approved a dividend payment of $0.175 payable on August 17, 2009, for the holders of record of August 7, 2009. We continue to see dividends as a consistent method to directly return value to our shareholders.

As we do continue to prioritize cash availability, no stock was repurchased during second quarter and our stock buyback authorization remains intact at $114.0 million.

Our outlook for the third quarter is based on stable reactivation revenues, growth in NutriSystem D, the continued softness in non-diabetic new customer revenue. Thereby we are forecasting a dilute EPS range of $0.23 to $0.26.

For the full year we believe marketing efficiency will be in the mid-to-upper-20% range as we expect to continue to promote our efforts on NutriSystem D. We continue to target gross margin improvement of 100 basis points to 150 basis points year-over-year and reactivation revenue will likely come mid-to-upper-20% of overall revenue.

Our focus on cost containment will continue to be a financial priority as we've just completed the right-sizing of the organization, as I mentioned. With that, we expect G&A for 2009 to be below 2008 for the year.

Thank you and I will now turn it back over to Joe.

Joseph M. Redling

While the recession has been a drag on consumer spending to date, or business model has continued to perform in this poor macro environment. We have been able to optimize supply chain costs, flex the spend in marketing, while launching NutriSystem D and right-size our G&A spending to weather the storm, while not losing sight of the tools for growth.

In fact, we have launched more new customer options during the recession than at any other time in recent history. These options have supported the business and the evolution of these choices will drive the long-term growth of the business.

We have a renewed sense of energy and purpose as we move forward. While we cannot say when the recession will end, we can say that we will be ready for the return to growth and we will support our customers every step of the way.

With that, we would like to open it up for some questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


(Operator Instructions) Your first question comes from Gregory Badishkanian – Citigroup.

Gregory Badishkanian - Citigroup

On the diabetic program, if you could just walk through, I know you've given some statistics, but just how big do you think this could be as a percentage of total sales.

Joseph M. Redling

It's a little early for us to forecast that. What I will say is it is having an impact on our overall mix in terms of gender, male and female, and the early indications are it could be a significant part of our business.

I look at this and if you look at the size of the market and the way it's been performing, the actual contribution to our business could be as large as our men's business because the numbers are about the same.

What we don't know to date is, we still are in the early stages. It's a launch period. So the real question is does this fall off a bit after the new news wears off. So that's what we have to monitor.

But the early response has been really strong.

Gregory Badishkanian - Citigroup

Are you currently using the recent studies that you talked about in your marketing?

Joseph M. Redling

Yes, in fact, I mentioned in the comments that we don't, in our current amortizing we had no promotional offers in our television executions or print executions, and that's because we believe the claims are so powerful that it's driving a lot of interest and it was important to establish this as a truly efficacious product out of the gate.

So we're getting a tremendous amount of interest and that interest continues to stay pretty strong and we're testing a variety of different media levels in terms of the various channel mixes to try to optimize it.

But what's encouraging is the response was relatively immediate. So as soon as we launched the program, we saw an immediate response. And it's been pretty steady for the last six or seven weeks.

So we are encouraged by it. I think it will be a pretty strategic part of our business going forward.

Gregory Badishkanian - Citigroup

With the economy clearly having an impact on the overall consumer, obviously it's had an impact on your business, is there any way to break out how or determine what the actual impact from the weaker economic environment is on your business?

Joseph M. Redling

I think we've been seeing this from January and I think we've mentioned this before, that the consumer confidence index is a good indicator of our business. As that moves down and more people come out of the market, it affects our new customer starts.

So for us to be able to pinpoint exactly what percentage of our decline is related to the economy, it's a little difficult, but we do feel that the majority of our loss is related to price sensitivity and the shift in the category. I mean, there has been a shift from commercial weight loss to self-directed dieting in 2009. It's the first time I've seen that and that's driven primarily by price sensitivity and cost containment. So we think the majority of our decline is related to the economy but as we showed, we're not standing by and just waiting for things to get better. We're actually launching new products, changing our marketing, trying to impact that business.

Gregory Badishkanian - Citigroup

And with the diabetic program, which could be, as you said, maybe as big as men's at some point, if the economy—let's say we weren't in a recession and you had that additional program, do you think you would see positive growth in the business?

Joseph M. Redling

The incrementality of diabetic is pretty clear. We knew what percentage of our business was diabetic prior to this launch. We've increased that very significantly in the initial stage. The question for us right now is can we sustain it. And that's why we need a little bit more runway to determine, is how long can we keep this level of interest up.

We do feel that, again, launching Diabetic the end of may is not the most opportunistic time to launch a new product so we do believe we will see an even greater surge in January, when we're in the peak diet season.

Gregory Badishkanian - Citigroup

On your cost structure, and in terms of cutting out costs out of the system, obviously with a tough economy and I think you've done some already, what other opportunities do you have to really cut out your G&A costs?

David Clark

We have really tried to do a very comprehensive cost reduction program across the board. There's been focus on the cost of goods sold, as I mentioned before, and that's the targeted increase in gross margin that we've mentioned on several calls. We did focus on the G&A and I went through some of those reductions today.

But we're also, as Joe reinforced, we, on a daily basis, focus on our marketing spend and our efficiency there. So I think we're going after all the opportunities and it's just a matter of continuing to be diligent. We went through a very comprehensive process that involved some down size of force in the second quarter and we have targets to reduce other outside spending as well.


Your next question comes from Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

Would you please describe the weakness that you have seen in the non-diabetic program business again? I think I got the diabetic business kind of mixed in a little bit too much, so describe, if you would please, that business excluding diabetes in the June quarter relative to what you have been seeing in previous quarters.

And then also roll us into July, which I think you had done earlier in the call.

Joseph M. Redling

What we actually saw was worsening trends in our core business in the second quarter. We kind of felt that we had the most challenging period right after Easter, as I mentioned. The core business, usually you get a pretty strong seasonal spike right after Easter. While we did see a demand increase, it was very subdued and it was very short lived. And as we moved into May and June, if you extract diabetes, those trends continued to worsen.

So the consumer demand and our marketing spend was challenged and because of the way we manage our marketing spend, based on profitability, we weren't able to continue to spend aggressively into that core business because the demand just wasn't there and we couldn't impact that demand, so we continued to revise our spend accordingly.

Diabetic kind of added a little bit more momentum in the market and in July we launched new marketing programs, new creative—we had media rates in our favor in July as we've seen historically, and we've seen improvements in those trends that were declining in May and June, we've seen a stability and a reversal of them. We've seen some improvement, which is only four or five weeks, but it's encouraging to see that in the middle of the summer.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

Talking about the worsening trends, is that worsening relative to the prior couple of quarters or would you say that the magnitude of the challenge that you were experiencing was similar to the prior couple of quarters?

Joseph M. Redling

I think what it's tied to mostly is the seasonality. So as we got away from the really primary diet season it became more difficult to generate incremental business. So I would say the trends definitely became more difficult sequentially from Q1 to Q2 and I think the primary reason for that is your marketing and environment in the first quarter where there is a generally the highest demand of the year and you could really manage your marketing dollars effectively. As you move out of those seasonal periods it becomes more difficult to kind of activate purchases and sales.

So that kind of became a combining factor of seeing kind of declining trends as we got into May and June.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

And you did mention that for the last four or five weeks that things have begun to turn more favorable. Would you please go back and describe what you think might be driving that?

Joseph M. Redling

As I said, we had new creative. We launched, we took a pretty aggressive stance to relaunch the business in July. July is typically one of those periods where you have an opportunity with lower media rates to go into the market.

We had a more of a focused view of our creative and our offers and we were aggressive on our media spending and I think those things combined with some momentum that I think was carried through with NutriSystem D that created a little bit more excitement about the NutriSystem brand, created a better performance and a better result from that marketing spend. And we continue to see that right through to this last week.

So we're encouraged by it. The question is can we sustain it through August and September. We have seen some of these surges before this year and they have a tendency to slowdown or become, those trends seem to stabilize. We're hoping to keep those trends continuing to improve as we move into September, but that's yet to be seen.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

And your guidance assumes that those trends do continue or they do not continue?

Joseph M. Redling

We are being cautious with our guidance on EPS. There is typically a slight bump in the seasonality in September. We're assuming that that probably is not going to be as normalized as you normally see, because we still see consumer confidence pretty low. So I would just say our guidance for the quarter is cautious.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

So basically an assumption that the current bump that you have experienced in the last four or five weeks does not continue and that you do not get the same magnitude of seasonal increase in the month of September.

Joseph M. Redling

I think that's fair. I think we believe we will see these trends moderate somewhat.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

Relative to the diabetic program, have you seen enough success and interest with that and are there enough diabetic individuals that do not to lose weight, that you have considered doing a weight maintenance diabetic program?

Joseph M. Redling

That's a very good question. One of the areas that's very important to the segment is maintenance and we have a maintenance program in NutriSystem and the diabetic program will be able to take part of that as well, and we do believe that's an opportunity down the road as this becomes a bigger part of our business.

And the market is very large and first was to establish the NutriSystem brand as a efficacious product and a reliable product for this consumer segment and then our very next step is to make sure these people not only lose the weight but keep it off.


Your next question comes from Analyst for James Duffy – Thomas Weisel Partners.

Analyst for James Duffy – Thomas Weisel Partners

Can we get an update on New Kitchen and potential expansion plans.

Joseph M. Redling

I think New Kitchen right now, we're kind of revamping their offering. They've been as challenged as any product in the category. As you know, they are high-end in the category. It's very premium priced and it's in New York City. So we're taking a new look at how to reposition that product and get it ready for January. So it's relatively stable right now but it's not a time for us, at this point, to be investing aggressively in marketing that business.

Analyst for James Duffy – Thomas Weisel Partners

And on the Costco program, was that large enough to have a material impact on gross margins?

Joseph M. Redling

On gross margins themselves?

Analyst for James Duffy – Thomas Weisel Partners


Joseph M. Redling

No, I mean, look, Costco, we've been very happy with but it's not yet been sizeable enough to make a big difference in gross margins but it's designed to be a program that has margins similar to our direct business.


Your next question is a follow-up from Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management.

Bill Dezellem - Titan Capital Management

Relative to the frozen products, have you really pursued the cross-selling with Schwan's and if so, what success or lack thereof, have you had?

Joseph M. Redling

We are talking about how to leverage their driver network but first the real focus right now is to make sure we have enough flexibility in a frozen offering to first establish the business.

And as we mentioned earlier, we launched frozen as a Select product that had three weeks of ready-to-go food and one week of frozen. Our customers were very vocal that while they loved the taste of the new foods they felt that one week wasn't sufficient and we will be moving to a two-plus-two.

We have a lot of other programs we're working with on Schwan's to provide much more variety and choice and integration, both on our side as well as their driver's side. But we're still continuing to kind of focus on the base product as we sit here today.


There are no further questions in the queue.

Cindy Warner

We'd like to thank everyone for their time today and we hope you will join us in the fall for our next conference call when we discuss our third quarter 2009 results.


This concludes today’s conference call.

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