May 26, 2010, 9:08 AM

Vitacost.com looks to a possible sale or merger

Vitacost.com said it was identifying and evaluating its strategic and financial alternatives.

Online health products retailer Vitacost.com Inc. has hired a financial advisor to pursue a potential sale or merger. The move follows 33.6% growth in 2009 web sales and a September initial public offer that yielded more than $50 million.

Vitacost.com said it was “identifying and evaluating its strategic and financial alternatives to enhance stockholder value, including the identification of potential business combination partners and purchaser candidates.” The company hired Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. as its financial advisor.

Vitacost.com declined to offer further details but highlighted some preliminary Q1 metrics during a presentation to financial analysts yesterday at its new Las Vegas distribution center. Sonya Lambert, chief marketing officer at Vitacost, No. 80 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide told analysts that for Q1:

  • Unique visits averaged 1.3 million per month.
  • Average order size was $73.
  • Mobile commerce was pulling in 600-800 orders per month.
  • Key sales drivers were price and top-rated products.

For the quarter ended March 31, Vitacost.com reported:

  • Total web sales increased 24.6% to $57.2 million from $45.9 million in the first quarter of 2009.
  • Net income declined 31.5% year over year to $2.50 million from $3.65 million in the prior year.

Within about a week of its late September 2009 initial public stock offering Vitacost had raised $52.8 million, exceeding its net target of $47.7 million. The proceeds of the public offering were earmarked for repaying $7.6 million owed to a lender and about $1 million owed to one of its directors. Vitacost also planned to use about $20 million to fund capital expenditures, such as purchasing fulfillment and manufacturing equipment and retrofitting and expanding its manufacturing and distribution facilities, and the balance for working capital and general corporate purposes, according to its S1 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

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