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Instant Analysis: Hain Celestial Makes an Acquisition, Gets an Activist Investor

What happened

It has been a busy week for natural foods purveyor Hain Celestial (NASDAQ: HAIN). Not only did it (finally) report its earnings, it added an asset to its portfolio, and saw the arrival of a new major shareholder.

The fresh asset is The Better Bean Company, a family run maker of prepared beans and other pulse-based products. The acquisition was made through Cultivate Ventures, Hain Celestial's investment "strategic platform." The Better Bean deal, the terms of which were not made public, is Cultivate Ventures' first asset buy.

Image source: The Better Bean Company.

Subsequent to that announcement, activist investor Engaged Capital reported in a regulatory filing that it has amassed a stake of 9.9% in Hain Celestial. The company has proposed seven candidates for Hain Celestial's eight-seat board of directors, and is pushing for major strategic changes, including a possible sale.

Does it matter

Although we don't know the price of The Better Bean deal, we can assume it isn't very burdensome. It's a small, young company with a light footprint and a specialized product selection.

What's sure to make more of an impact is the entry of Engaged Capital, a determined activist that has stirred the pot at such companies as Rent-A-Center and Outerwall. Hain Celestial is a juicy target for activism, as it is a onetime stock market darling with shares that have dropped considerably from their 2015 peak.

This is due mostly to accounting issues Hain Celestial experienced in mid-2016, a set of difficulties that caused it to delay the release of its annual and quarterly results for over a year. Meanwhile, that data reveals that sales have slumped so far in 2017, and net income has dropped significantly (although operating cash flow saw an encouraging 12% year-over-year improvement).

The Engaged Capital news excited investors. The stock was up by over 8% in mid-afternoon trading on Friday. Given Hain Celestial's struggles and its uninspiring fundamentals of late, maybe it's best for investors to unload their shares on the back of that pop.

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Eric Volkman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Hain Celestial. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.