Herbalife’s Road Has Been Rocky, But Is it a Buy at The Current Valuation?

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Written By Kris Enyinnaya

Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE: HLF), with its headquarters nestled in the Cayman Islands, has carved a niche for itself in the health and wellness sector, focusing on weight management, supplements, and sports nutrition products.

Despite its global presence in 94 markets and a product lineup of approximately 136 offerings, the company’s journey has been anything but smooth.

Herbalife’s direct-selling multi-level marketing model, which has been a magnet for scrutiny from regulatory bodies, short sellers, and critiques from former employees, has fueled much of its controversial history.

Founded in 1980 and having transitioned from private equity ownership back to the public markets in 2004, Herbalife’s stock price has seen its fair share of volatility.

Presently trading at around nine dollars a share, the company’s valuation has plummeted into what some analysts now consider the ‘bargain basement.’

Revenue Streams and Product Portfolio

Herbalife’s revenue is categorized into five segments, with Weight Management being the largest, contributing to 56% of the FY23 sales, despite a 4% decrease from FY22.

Credit: DepositPhotos

The company’s flagship product, the Formula 1 soy-based meal replacement shake, remains a significant revenue driver. Other segments include Targeted Nutrition, Energy, Sports, and Fitness, Other Nutrition, and Literature, Promotional, & Other, each contributing to the company’s top line in varying degrees.

The MLM Model and Its Evolution

Herbalife’s direct-selling model has evolved significantly, especially after a 2016 FTC settlement that required changes to its business practices and imposed a $200 million fine.

The model is built around independent ‘members,’ which include preferred members and distributors, the latter capable of earning additional income through their sales organizations.

As of YE23, Herbalife boasted around 6.5 million members globally, with a sales leader re-qualification rate of 68.3% for FY24.

Technological Investments and Market Adaptation

In response to regulatory changes and market demands, Herbalife initiated a $400 million investment into a digital technology project named Herbalife One, aiming to enhance the member experience and streamline operations.

Share Price Trajectory and Financial Highlights

Despite reaching an all-time high in 2019 and experiencing a surge in distributor numbers during the pandemic, Herbalife’s share price has faced significant pressure, dropping to its lowest level in nearly 15 years following the Q4’23 financial report.

The decline in share price reflects the market’s reaction to Herbalife’s recent performance and future outlook, which indicates flat net sales and a slight EBITDA decrease for FY24.

Balance Sheet Strength and Analyst Views

Herbalife’s FY23 saw an improvement in free cash flow and a reduction in debt levels.

However, the lack of stock repurchases in FY23 due to exceeding debt-covenant thresholds highlights the company’s current financial constraints.

Analyst opinions on Herbalife are mixed, with a consensus leaning towards a cautious outlook despite the attractive valuation metrics.

Insider Confidence and Future Outlook

Recent insider purchases, including a significant buy from Chairman & CEO Michael Johnson, signal confidence in the company’s prospects.

However, the debate over the effectiveness of multi-level marketing in the digital age continues to shadow Herbalife’s operational model.

A Cautious Investment Opportunity

Herbalife’s current valuation presents a potentially attractive entry point for investors, trading at a forward PE of 4.4 and an EV/Adj. EBITDA of 5. However, the company’s controversial history, coupled with flat sales and a modest earnings outlook for FY24, makes it a speculative investment.

Credit: DepositPhotos

While a small position might be justified by the low valuation, the inherent risks associated with Herbalife’s business model and market challenges suggest a cautious approach to investment.

As the company navigates through its digital transformation and attempts to stabilize its financial performance, investors should closely monitor Herbalife’s strategic initiatives and market adaptation efforts.


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