Hain Celestial Plunges After Disclosing SEC Accounting Probe

  • Natural-food supplier had been conducting an internal review
  • Company has delayed financial results during its investigation

Hain Celestial Group Inc., the natural-food supplier that began a probe of its accounting practices last year, fell as much 15 percent after saying the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has opened a formal investigation into the matter.

Hain alerted the SEC in August that it was delaying financial statements because of its own review, according to a filing on Friday. The regulators then issued a subpoena seeking relevant documents. The Lake Success, New York-based company, which supplies Whole Foods Market Inc. and other grocers, said it “intends to cooperate fully with the SEC.”

While Hain’s accounting issues are well-known, the announcement of the SEC probe renewed investors’ concerns, said Ken Shea, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence.

“It’s headline risk,” Shea said. “People are thinking the worst -- that the SEC is going to uncover something.”

The shares fell as low as $32.87 in New York on Monday, the biggest intraday decline in six months. The stock had been down 1.3 percent this year before the close of regular trading on Friday.

Reporting Delay

When Hain announced last year that it was reviewing its accounting, it delayed the release of fourth-quarter and fiscal 2016 financial results. The company said it was looking at concessions granted to certain U.S. distributors and whether revenue from those agreements was counted in the correct period.

Hain then said in November that while a full independent examination of its procedures wasn’t complete, no evidence of “intentional wrongdoing” had been found. The remarks brought relief to investors, who sent the shares up as much as 11 percent that day.

The company has long been cited as a potential acquisition target, especially as big food sellers look to update their product lineups. Danone agreed to buy WhiteWave Foods Co. last year for about $10 billion, bolstering its organic-food offerings.

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