Herbalife Earnings Showcase Hedge Fund Fight


A hedge fund battle that has been raging for more than a year will once again rear its head this afternoon, Monday July 28, after the market closes. Herbalife Ltd. (NYSE:HLF), purveyor of herbal diet supplements, will reveal its numbers for the three months through June this afternoon, and investors will be crowding around to watch the numbers. Bill Ackman and Carl Icahn, two of Wall Street’s best known hedge fund managers, are battling over the future of the company, and today’s earnings may show off weakness on one side or the other.

Bill Ackman, who runs a hedge fund calls Pershing Square, is betting against Herbalife. He reckons that the company is a pyramid scheme, and he’s bet a lot of money that he can prove it. Carl Icahn seems to like Herbalife’s business and his is the winning bet at the moment. As Bill Ackman attempts to demonstrate the problems with the Herbalife model, the hedge fund manager will hope that the bad publicity will have had some effect on the company’s earnings.

Hedge Fund Battle Rages Around Herbalife

An incredible anticlimax last week has left the Bill Ackman bet against Herbalife reeling. He announced last Monday that he had information, sourced from an ongoing widescale investigation into the company, which would massively undermine its value and show it to be a pyramid scheme. Shares fell significantly in value on the promise, but sprang back strongly after the hedge fund manager revealed what he had. The market seemed to agree that it was more of the same old talk, and little that could harm the company.

Ackman began his bet against Herbalife in December of 2012. Since he first put money against the company it has performed relatively well in earnings, benefiting from the booming consumer economy and an increasingly health conscious America. The company’s shares have seen their ups and downs in the period, but now sit at more than $67 a unit. That’s a lot higher than Bill Ackman shorted the company at.

Right now Bill Ackman is likely losing a large amount of money on the back of his bet on Herbalife. Carl Icahn, on the other hand, is collecting dividends as his junior rival tries to convince the Federal Trade Commission to go after Herbalife for the way it treats customers. Ackman is used to long short campaigns, however, and he may not take his defeat at last week’s presentation as proof that he’s lost. Tonight’s earnings report may change his opinion.

Earnings Hit Ackman Hard

Tonight’s earnings report will show whether or not the brand damage that Bill Ackman has been trying to do to Herbalife on the capital markets has had any effect on the consumer level. If the company’s earnings beat the expectations of the market and the shares pop, Bill Ackman may soon be forced out of his position by revolting clients.

If, however, the company had a poor June quarter, there’s likely to be some reinforcement of confidence for Ackman. Herbalife may be the biggest bet he’ll ever make, and his reputation is really and truly on the line. Earnings numbers are not at the center of this battle, but that doesn’t mean that either side would reject a win this afternoon.

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