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Life Time Earnings Fall in First Quarter 2009

CHANHASSEN, MN -- As he has in recent financial results calls, Life Time Fitness CEO Bahram Akradi remained confident about his company’s future despite a 13.2 percent decrease in net income, which was announced Thursday during the company’s first quarter 2009 call with investor analysts.

Life Time’s net income in the first quarter of 2009, which ended March 31, was $15.1 million, down from $17.4 million in the first quarter of 2008. The $15.1 million, or 38 cents per share, was better than the 35 cents per share that analysts had predicted.

Revenue for the first quarter of 2009 grew 11.9 percent to 206.4 million from $184.5 million during the same period last year.

Akradi said several factors related to current economic conditions affected Life Time during the quarter: lower enrollment fees, higher marketing costs, higher attrition, higher membership acquisition cost and pressure on average dues.

“Over the last 90 days, we have challenged ourselves to create and execute an action plan that would address each of these areas,” Akradi said during the call. “We are energized to face the challenges in front of us. We will hit it head on. We will win.”

Memberships grew 15.1 percent to 599,919 on March 31, compared with 521,177 on March 31, 2008. Membership dues rose 14.8 percent, although Akradi cautioned that that percentage will decrease as Life Time slows its new club openings. In-center revenue increased 7.3 percent but was down 7 percent per member. Same-center revenue was down 2.7 percent.

Life Time adjusted its 2009 business outlook slightly. Revenue is still expected to be $830 million to $860 million. Net income, however, is expected to be $62 million to $68 million, updated from $60 million to $68 million.

Attrition is higher than what Akradi and Life Time want (42.7 percent in the first quarter) but the attrition rate decreased for the second straight quarter, from 11.5 percent (third quarter 2008) to 10.8 percent (fourth quarter 2008) to 9.8 percent (first quarter 2009). Akradi said he’d like attrition to come down to 36 percent.

“What we are doing is increasing the value proposition by providing more services, more value, more programming, more connectivity but not reducing our fees or our dues, which we really don’t believe is necessary,” Akradi said.

Life Time plans to open three clubs this year, two of which opened in February—Berkeley Heights, NJ, and Lake Houston, TX. The third club will open in June in the Memphis, TN-suburb of Collierville, TN. That club was delayed in 2008. Originally, Life Time planned to open 11 clubs in 2009 before paring that estimate down first to six, then to three.

Akradi hinted that the company plans to open three more clubs in 2010, depending on the credit markets.

“I think there has been this underlying thought that Life Time Fitness is going to just blow itself out with growth and get in trouble,” Akradi said. “We have such a strong cash flow, we just want to demonstrate that—reduce our debt balance and be firmly in control of opportunities ahead. We feel great about opening three large-format clubs this year, another three next year. When the market gives us the complete green light, we can focus on increasing the growth very quickly.”

Life Time also held its annual shareholders’ meeting on Thursday. Life Time’s shares were at $16.89 on the New York Stock Exchange late Friday afternoon.

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