Herbalife has found it hard to gather positive headlines over the past couple of years.
Other than the very public fight with Bill Ackman that seemed to finish with Herbalife coming out on the winning end, the pounding that the firm has taken in the midst of that fight has taken a serious toll.
To hammer that point home, there is significant scuttlebutt in the public markets that Herbalife is about to take a serious shot from the debt rating agencies, and possibly a renewed call to go private in some way. Here are some quotes from several Wall Street analysts in the know about what could be coming Herbalife’s way:
“In our revised internal models, we assume that Herbalife actually retires debt over the coming years, either from cash flow from operating activities, and/or the conversion of the notes. The problem here is that we see it spending more to buy back stock over the same period with the cash it received from the Credit Facility. The net effect of this is that, while it may actually be able to reduce its long-term debt levels, in its attempt to manage the stock price through buybacks, it will deplete its cash position too quickly, thereby actually increasing net debt, despite the reduction in long-term debt. Based on our models, the increase in net debt levels in conjunction with declining EBITDA levels would produce a net debt/EBITDA multiple materially in excess of 4x.”
“I would anticipate the management creatively rationalizing any behavior that may lead the company into a series of credit downgrades if it meant it could continue to manage the price of the stock, perhaps just in time to unload its stock and options. Herbalife does not provide guidance on its share buyback rate or amount on a quarterly basis, or even annual basis, so it’s all but impossible to precisely predict how aggressively it will buy back stock to manage the stock price. That said, after its Q3 10-Q was released, I’d guess it will be a heavy buyer over the next couple months. The vast majority of the scenarios in our models have it sustaining over 4x in perpetuity.”
A sentence like “I would anticipate that management creatively rationalizing any behavior that may lead into a series of credit downgrades if it meant it could continue to manage the price of the stock…” is not a good look. Herbalife is walking dangerously close to being nothing more than a holding company doing nothing more than managing the price fluctuations of a stock connected to little more than speculation. Thus, the reason why it is constantly a target of corporate raiders i.e. Ackman.
Some more quotes about what could be coming Herbalife’s way in the near future: