Weight Watchers International reports Q1 net earnings of US$54.6M, down 25.8% from year-ago period amid increased marketing spending; total revenue unchanged at US$503.5M

NEW YORK , May 3, 2012 (press release) – Weight Watchers International Inc.'s first-quarter profit missed expectations as the weight loss company increased its marketing spending. The news sent its shares plunging in after-hours trading Wednesday.

The New York-based company earned $54.6 million, or 74 cents per share, for the quarter that ended March 31. That's down from $73.6 million, or $1 per share, in the same quarter last year. Its total revenue was essentially flat at $503.5 million.

Analysts polled by FactSet were expecting Weight Watchers to earn 78 cents per share on revenue of $505.8 million.

Weight Watchers said it spent 36 percent more on marketing in this year's quarter than last to help build its Weight Watchers online business with men in the U.S. and European consumers. The company's online business has thrived, while its in-person meetings have struggled.

Weight Watchers updated its full-year guidance to reflect a recent tender offer and share buyback, as well changes in business trends. It now expects to earn $4.60 to $4.80 per share for the year, which is up from its prior forecast of $4.20 to $4.60 per share. This includes a 50 to 55 cent per-share impact from the offer and buyback.

Analysts were expecting the company would earn $4.10 per share; analyst expectations typically exclude one-time adjustments.

Shares of Weight Watchers rose 33 cents to close at $76.01 Wednesday. But its shares fell $12.02, or nearly 16 percent, in after-hours trading to $63.99. Its stock has traded between $51.28 and $86.97 in the past 52 weeks.

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