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Oprah ready to walk away from Weight Watchers – investors feel the same way

Shares of WW International, also known as WeightWatchers, have taken a pounding as the company disclosed that celebrity shareholder Oprah Winfrey would exit its board later this year and donate her stock in the weight management firm.

Mar 01, 2024, updated Mar 01, 2024
Oprah Winfrey introduces a performance by Fantasia Barrino during the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

Oprah Winfrey introduces a performance by Fantasia Barrino during the 66th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday, Feb. 4, 2024, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

The exit of the media icon, who has been a board member since 2015, comes at a time when WW is struggling to turn a profit.

The stock fell nearly 24.5 per cent to $US2.88 in early trading and has lost more than half its value so far this year.

WeightWatchers
WeightWatchers last year announced the acquisition of telehealth platform Sequence. (AP PHOTO)
Winfrey will donate her WW shares to the National Museum of African American History and Culture, WW said.

She owned 1.13 million shares worth $US6.34 million ($A9.76 million) as of January 1, LSEG data showed.

Winfrey’s donation would help “eliminate any perceived conflict of interest around her taking weight loss medications,” the weight-loss services firm said.

Oprah’s departure is “just another piece of evidence in the overall picture that people would much rather take a jab than have to adjust their lifestyle,” said Troy Harmon, chief investment officer at financial services firm Henssler Financial.

Harmon, referring to popular obesity drugs offered by Eli Lilly and Novo Nordisk, said he “wouldn’t be surprised if she resurfaced as a spokesperson for one of the drug manufactures”.

The talk show host said last year that she uses prescription medication to manage her weight.

Shares of the New York City-based company have also been hurt due to “exacerbated concerns” around its growth prospects and liquidity, Barclays analyst Stephanie Davis said.

The stock had more than doubled in value last year on hopes for a boost from its acquisition of telehealth platform Sequence, which marked its entry into the lucrative market for prescription obesity drugs.

But the company’s 2024 sales forecast of $US830 million to $US860 million – which came in below analyst expectations of $US896.2 million – somewhat dashed those hopes.

WW International has a lower forward price-to-earnings multiple – a common benchmark to value stocks – of 13.55 compared with 17.21 for rival USANA Health.

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