Life Time Continues to Cut Costs While Keeping Eye on Expansion


Chanhassen, Mn — Like many public companies, Life Time Fitness has seen its stock price fluctuate wildly over the past several months. With a drop to as low as $7.07 in March from a 52-week high of $41.50 last September, Life Time's stock price steadily rose to more than $27 after the Chanhassen, MN-based company released its second quarter results last month.

The rise in Life Time's stock has coincided with the company's change in plans to scale down its expansion agenda over the next two years. Life Time has already completed its new club openings this year after its third new club of 2009 opened last month. The company plans to open only three more clubs in 2010.

Life Time CEO Bahram Akradi admitted during an earnings call with analysts last month that he was changing his personal focus from the company's growth in clubs to internal operations, such as cutting costs and member retention. Akradi said he has spent more time working with the company's marketing and sales teams.

“We look at these last six or eight months as an amazing opportunity for our company to readjust to be much more efficient in the way we do things,” Akradi said. “My expectation is that many of these cost-saving improvements are here to stay even if we ramp growth significantly in the future.”

The reduced expansion plan does not mean Life Time is done thinking about future locations, Akradi told analysts.

“We have not dismantled our development team,” Akradi said. “We have many, many deals in the pipeline. As you can imagine, many developers have no other option on the land that we had under contract with them. So they're giving us the opportunity to extend and extend and extend. I do not expect us to have any trouble growing at the rate we want to grow as long as we remain cash-flow positive.”

Once Life Time enters new markets over the next two or three years, the company's large club format will remain the same in those markets, Akradi said.

“We have focused for about 18 to 19 years building a brand that is not confusing to the consumer,” Akradi said. “It's not necessarily about all the different things we offer in one particular club. It's about whatever we do offer, we do it first class. I do not intend to enter new markets with a product that is significantly less in amenities. I think we would lead into markets with the appropriate-size standard club and formats.”

Life Time reported a 10.5 percent revenue growth in second quarter 2009 to $212.5 million from the $192.4 million the company generated in second quarter 2008. For the six months ended June 30, 2009, revenue grew 11.2 percent to $419 million from $376.9 million during the same period in 2008.

Same-center revenue, however, was down 4.4 percent in second quarter 2009 from second quarter 2008, and revenue per member was down 2 percent.

Net income dipped in the second quarter to $18.3 million from $19.8 million in second quarter 2008. Net income for the first six months of this year — $33.4 million — also was down from the $37.2 million the company posted during the same time last year.

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