Herbalife Battle Is Not Over

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Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) may have emerged unscathed from an audit, but the company’s problems should not be relegated. Investors in the firm should still regard Bill Ackman’s short campaign as among the most important factors affecting the stock.

That short campaign is one of the most interesting things happening on Wall Street right now. Bill Ackman has held a huge amount of Herbalife shares short for more than a year. Since 2013 began the stock has been on the rise. The hedge fund manager is losing money on his bet, but he seems intent on following it through. He is famed for his short endurance, with his bet against MBIA often listed as one of the most impressive campaigns of all time.

Herbalife Looks Clean

PriceWaterhouseCoopers gave Herbalife a clean bill of health In its audit of the company’s financial statements from 2010 to 2013. The accountancy firm said that Herbalife did not need to make any material changes to its business. The announcement was a major blow to Bill Ackman’s short on the company, but that doesn’t mean the weaknesses aren’t there.

A number of experts have supported Ackman’s argument about the pyramid structure of Herbalife. The company has, of course, managed to line up its own experts to counter the claims. The PWC audit has more weight than any of those experts, however, and it’s pushing on Ackman’s 2013 returns.

It is, however, important to understand what Bill Ackman wants from his bet on Herbalife. He’s not looking for the belief of investors, nor is he looking for Herbalife’s own auditors to announce faults with the company. He wants the Federal government to move in. Whether or not it does means a lot to his shareholders.

Herbalife May Still Fall

This week has been a great one for Herbalife Ltd. ( NYSE:HLF) investors, and as 2013 comes to a close shareholders are able to reflect on a fantastic 2013. The Federal Trade Commission has shown no sign of getting on board with Ackman’s short, but it hasn’t said anything to suggest it supports the Herbalife business model either.

Whether or not Herbalife runs a pyramid scheme is immaterial. The question is whether the Federal Trade Commission defines it as such, and decides to do something about it. Bill Ackman says that the company is worth around $0 per share. That may be a little extreme for some investors, and the risks will certainly rule out most of the others.

A short on Herbalife certainly isn’t for the ordinary investors. Most people don’t have the money, or the emotional control, to do what Bill Ackman has done. Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF) looks stronger now than it did this time last year, but it’s not out of the wods yet. One little statement from the FTC could bring the whole wall crashing down.

Disclosure: Author represents that he has no position in any stocks mentioned in this article at the time this article was submitted.