Herbalife posts higher profit, raises 2013 forecast

Nutritional products company Herbalife Ltd posted adjusted quarterly profit that blew past expectations and raised its full-year profit forecast, fueled by strong demand around the world.

Herbalife, the subject of a battle between hedge fund titans Carl Icahn and Bill Ackman, said on Monday net income was $118.9 million, or $1.10 per share, in the first quarter, compared with $108.2 million, or 88 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding a hit from the devaluation of Venezuela's currency and expenses for defending the company from criticism by Ackman and other high-profile investors, Herbalife earned $1.27 a share during the quarter - 20 cents more than the average of analysts' estimates compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Net sales rose 17 percent to $1.1 billion.

The Los Angeles-based company also raised its 2013 forecast for adjusted earnings per share to a range of $4.60 to $4.80 from $4.45 to $4.65 previously.

Herbalife is a "multi-level marketer" whose products are sold through a network of independent individuals. Ackman, whose Pershing Square Capital has a $1 billion bet against the company, has called it "a pyramid scheme" and predicted that its shares will eventually go to zero.

The company's shares tumbled following the disclosure of Ackman's short position last year but then rebounded.

Carl Icahn has since become a defender of the company, taking a stake in Herbalife and putting two representatives - Jonathan Christodoro and Keith Cozza - on the board.

It was later discovered that a senior KPMG auditor for Herbalife was leaking nonpublic information about the company in exchange for money, forcing the firm to resign from Herbalife's service.

The company also disclosed in February that its operations have been the subject of an inquiry by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's Division of Enforcement since late last year.

Shares in Herbalife, which closed 1.3 percent higher at $38.75, edged up 0.3 percent to $38.85 in extended trading.