Latest Sign Of The Oprah Effect? Weight Watchers' Forecast

Company Raises Guidance After Subscriber Growth In Latest Quarter

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Credit: PRNewsFoto/Weight Watchers International
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Weight Watchers International is gaining -- in a good way.

The weight loss company said Wednesday that attendance at meetings in North America jumped 18% in the first quarter from a year earlier. Worldwide, its subscriber count increased 4.8%, with an 11.2% jump in North America, helping the company overcome declines in the U.K. and continental Europe.

Weight Watchers' first-quarter loss was smaller than expected and the company raised its profit forecast for the year.

It's been just over six months since Weight Watchers announced its partnership with Oprah Winfrey. Since Ms. Winfrey bought 10% of Weight Watchers International and joined its board she has also started marketing the brand to her millions of followers.

On a conference call with investors following the earnings release, Weight Watchers President-CEO Jim Chambers said "Beyond the Scale and Oprah's involvement is a winning combination for our business." In addition to appearing in marketing materials, Ms. Winfrey has appeared in TV ads for Weight Watchers, including one in which she says she eats bread every day on the program.

In a statement, Mr. Chambers attributed the company's progress to the company's new "Beyond the Scale" program. "Our first quarter loss was smaller than we expected, and for the first time since 2012 we grew our total subscribers year-over-year, clearly demonstrating that our business is turning around," he said.

Shares of Weight Watchers soared 13.7% to $14.20 in after-hours trading following the release of the quarterly results.

Still, revenue in the latest quarter fell 4.7% to $306.9 million. Weight Watchers lost 17 cents per share in the quarter.

The company expects both revenue and profit growth for the full year, however. It now anticipates earning 80 cents to $1.05 per share this year. In late February, it had predicted a profit of 70 cents to $1.00 per share for 2016.

Which seems to prove that in addition to eating it, Ms. Winfrey can bring in the bread.