Two trading sessions after WW (the company formerly known as Weight Watchers) (NASDAQ: WTW) shares fell on a downbeat analyst note, shares of the wellness company were rising today after another analyst rang in with an endorsement. As a result, the stock was up 9.9% as of 11:38 a.m. EDT.
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Morgan Stanley analyst Vincent Sinisi said his tracker for WW app downloads showed subscribers reaching 4.5 million at the end of the first quarter, which was in line with the company's guidance for subscribers to be down slightly from the 4.6 million it had at the end of the first quarter of 2018.
Sinisi also said app download trends improved sequentially in the quarter, though part of that may be seasonality, which favors the first quarter due to sign-ups from new year's resolutions. Sinisi maintained an "equal weight" rating, but said he sees "tactical upside at these levels," heading into the company's first-quarter earnings report, expected at the beginning of May.
Sinisi's assessment is a notable contrast from that of JPMorgan Chase analyst Christina Brathwaite, who last week lowered her price target on Weight Watchers from $14 to $12 on reports that subscription trends were continuing to erode.
Weight Watchers shares have collapsed over the last year as the stock is down more than 80% from its peak last summer. Disappointing quarterly results, a questionable rebrand to "WW" to signal a focus on wellness, and falling profits have caused investors to flee the stock. Management has attempted to reassure the market by promising a new ad campaign centering around media mogul Oprah Winfrey, who also owns a stake in the company, but investors have turned skeptical.
We'll learn more when WW turns in its first-quarter earnings report in a few weeks. Analysts see revenue falling 11% to $362.8 million and a loss per share of $0.27, down from a per-share profit of $0.31 in the year-ago quarter. With such a low bar, the stock could surge if Sinisi's right that subscriber trends held steady.
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