January 5, 2011, 2:22 PM

Vitacost.com presses on while appealing NASDAQ delisting

Stock trading has halted while the online vitamin and supplement retailer appeals NASDAQ’s ruling.

Following a delisting notice from the NASDAQ stock exchange in early December, Vitacost.com Inc. is appealing the decision, the online retailer says in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Trading in Vitacost.com stock has been halted by NASDAQ while the appeal process is under review.

Vitacost.com, an online vitamin and supplement retailer, announced Nov. 18 it had received a preliminary notice from NASDAQ that said Vitacost.com was not in compliance with NASDAQ’s listing rules when it missed a deadline for filing its quarterly financial statement.

The retailer had posted a late filing notification with the SEC shortly before the NASDAQ non-compliance notice, stating that it was reviewing accounting procedures for stock transactions related to its initial public offering in September 2009. The IPO raised about $50 million.

On Dec. 21, Vitacost.com received a follow-up letter from NASDAQ saying “continued listing of the company’s securities on the NASDAQ stock market is no longer warranted.”

Vitacost.com, No. 80 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide, is appealing the NASDAQ decision, the company says in a document filed with the SEC Dec. 28. An unspecified date has been set for a hearing, says a company spokeswoman. A ruling by NASDAQ could come by mid-February. 

Vitacost.com Inc.’s e-commerce site continues to serve shoppers while company executives contend with questions regarding the way it accounted for past stock transactions.

“Our recent announcement has no effect on our day-to-day operations. It remains business as usual at Vitacost.com,” the spokeswoman says.

In December, Vitacost.com filed documents with the SEC stating that “filings and reports issued by the company since June 20, 2007, cannot and should not be relied upon, primarily due to uncertainty related to the company's equity capitalization at this time.”

The December filing included some possible remedies to the stock transaction accounting issue, including a stock exchange or tender offer, resolution in a state court, or a Chapter 11 reorganization of its equity structure.

The past year was a difficult one for Vitacost.com. Last May, Vitacost.com announced it had hired a financial company to explore the possible sale of the company. In August, CEO Ira P. Kerker left the company and Jeffrey J. Horowitz was named interim CEO. In October, Stephen E. Markert  Jr., was appointed interim chief financial officer, replacing former chief financial and accounting officer Richard P. Smith, who left the company.

In the company’s most recent earnings report filed with the SEC, for the second quarter ended June 30, 2010, Vitacost.com reported:

  • Net sales increased 14.1%, to $54.0 million from $47.3 million last year. That represented a 5.6% drop from next sales of $57.2 million in the first quarter of 2010.
  • Gross profit fell to $14.3 million, down 5.3% from $15.1 million for the same period last year.

For the first six months of 2010, Vitacost.com reported:

  • Net sales increased 19.2%, to $111.1 million from $93.2 million for the same period in 2009.
  • Gross profit increased 1.7%, to $30.6 million compared with $30.1 million in the prior year.
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