Cramer: Why Planet Fitness is working out and the new Weight Watchers isn’t

Image result for Cramer: Why Planet Fitness is working out and the new Weight Watchers isn’tPlanet Fitness and Weight Watchers’ stocks for years have been boosted by healthy trends, but the latter is now carrying too much risk to recommend, CNBC’s Jim Cramer said Friday.

The “image-obsessed culture” of selfies and Instagram make people feel “under a lot of pressure to look good,” but shares of the nutrition company are going south while the low-cost fitness chain is maintaining its composure, he said.

“I think you’ve got two parallel stories: Planet Fitness is an extremely well-run company with a fabulous brand and they know exactly what they’re doing, while the new WW seems dazed and confused,” the “Mad Money” host said.

Weight Watchers, which rebranded itself WW last September and added wellness initiatives, had an “ugly quarter with truly abysmal guidance,” Cramer said. The diet program revealed modest earnings and slumping subscribers in the December quarter, alongside a disappointing 2019 forecast. The share price is down nearly 50 percent this year and nearly 70 percent compared to a year ago.

Prior to the name change, the stock saw positive action since 2015 when Oprah took a 10 percent stake in the company, a new CEO was added, and DJ Khaled endorsed the program. Subscribers piled on and shares reached $105 in summer 2018. That followed years of disruption by app-based competition since 2011, when the stock slid from $80 to less than $5, Cramer explained.

But the recent bad fortune was initiated by Artal Luxembourg, the private equity firm that slashed its majority share in Weight Watchers a month before the company’s rebranding to WW in September, he said. Since the name change, the diet program has been bleeding subscribers, the host said.

“WW … feels like it’s having an identity crisis,” Cramer said. “The Weight Watchers brand may have been kind of problematic, as the kids say, but at least you knew what Weight Watchers was for. People will pay $3 to $13 per month for help losing weight, but for wellness advice? Maybe that’s a tougher sell.”

On the other hand, Planet Fitness has stuck to the plan. The low-cost fitness franchise attracts the casual customer with its “no judgment” philosophy and has never given up its winning formula, Cramer said.

The company beat on the top and bottom lines in the fourth quarter and gave a positive full-year guidance. The equity has continued steady growth since its 2015 IPO, rallying nearly 20 percent this year and more than 62 percent from a year ago.

“The thing that sticks with me here is that Planet Fitness seems to have a better sense of its own identity,” he said. “Its vibe has stayed the same from the very beginning. This is a fun gym that doesn’t treat fitness like a religion.”

“Sometimes you just need to stick with what’s working and avoid what’s falling apart,” Cramer said. “That’s why Planet Fitness, even after this run, is still very much a buy and I think WW is way too risky for me to recommend.”