Weight Watchers 4Q profit up on online business

NEW YORK (AP) -- Weight Watchers International Inc. said Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profit jumped 30 percent as its online business grew.

The weight-loss company also announced that it plans to buy up to $1.5 billion of its shares through a combination of a tender offer and a deal with one of its major shareholders.

Weight Watchers earned $63.7 million, or 86 cents per share, for the quarter that ended Dec. 31. That's up from $48.9 million, or 66 cents per share, for the same quarter last year.

Weight Watchers said that its revenue increased 12.5 percent to $401.3 million. The boost came largely from a more than 60 percent increase in revenue from its online business.

Analysts anticipated the company would earn 87 cents per share on revenue $412.1 million.

The company's shares rose 56 cents after hours following the report. They ended Tuesday's trading up $1.49 at $79.34.

The company earned $304.9 million, or $4.11 per share, for the full year. That's up from $194.2 million, or $2.56 per share, in 2010. Revenue rose more than 25 percent to $1.82 billion from $1.45 billion last year.

Weight Watchers expects adjusted 2012 earnings of $4.20 to $4.60 per share. Analysts on average forecast $4.58 per share.

Weight Watchers said it plans to launch a modified "Dutch auction" tender offer next week to buy back up to $720 million of its common stock for $72 to $83 per share. It also plans to purchase an equal number of shares from its controlling shareholder Artal Holdings at the same price. If the offer is fully subscribed, the company will repurchase a total of $1.5 billion of its common stock.

Weight Watchers said its guidance does not include the impact of the tender offer.