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Weight Watchers Surges As Oprah Helps Boost New Subscribers

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Weight Watchers Surges As Oprah Helps Boost New Subscribers

Weight Watchers International Inc. soared as much as 16 percent after posting a rebound in subscribers, a sign its high-profile partnership with Oprah Winfrey is paying off.

The weight-loss program’s subscribers climbed 5 percent globally to 3.1 million by the end of the first quarter, following years of declines, according to a statement on Wednesday. The New York-based company also reported a narrower quarterly loss than analysts had predicted, and it boosted its annual forecast.

Weight Watchers has seen a surge in publicity since October, when Winfrey agreed to buy a stake in the company and help advertise the business. Since then, she’s tweeted about her weight loss and released a video that featured a surprise appearance at a Weight Watchers member meeting in New York. The buzz appears to be working: In North America, subscribers jumped 11 percent last quarter.

“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,” Chief Executive Officer Jim Chambers said in the statement.

Weight Watchers shares climbed as high as $14.58 after the results were released late Wednesday. The stock was already up 48 percent over the past 12 months, helped by the agreement with Winfrey.

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In March, Weight Watchers said Winfrey had generated 1 billion free media impressions for the company. That advertising would have cost Weight Watchers as much as $17.5 million, according to Apex Marketing Group Inc.

Weight Watchers lost 17 cents a share in the first quarter. That’s less red ink than the 18 cents analysts had projected. It now expects earnings of 80 cents to $1.05 a share, up from a previous forecast of 70 cents to $1.

News by Bloomberg, edited by ESM. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.

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