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Hain acquires UK natural foods firm in $260M deal

Hain Celestial Group chief executive Irwin Simon at

Hain Celestial Group chief executive Irwin Simon at his Melville headquarters. Photo Credit: Howard Schnapp, 2009

In a brief announcement Tuesday the Melville-based natural foods maker Hain Celestial Group Inc. disclosed "the strategic acquisition of Daniels Group, a leading marketer and manufacturer of chilled foods with three leading brands in the United Kingdom."

The sale price was set at around $260 million, with part of that amount contingent on sales performance of Daniels Group during the next two years. The buyer will be Hain's U.K. division.

The acquired company's brands include New Covent Garden Soup and Johnsons Juices.

Hain had been mentioned in European news reports as a possible suitor for Daniels Group, which is owned by SATS, a Singapore food and air-transit, ground-handling company.

Hain was up $0.37 in early trading to $32.41. Its share price is up nearly 20 percent for the year.

This is the second recent purchase by Hain. Earlier this month it bought a Canadian natural foods brand, Europe's Best, a maker of frozen fruits and vegetables.

Hain reported in August that it nearly doubled its year-to-year profit during a period when it gained greater attention among investors as activist investor Carl Icahn upped his stake in Hain to more than 16 percent of outstanding shares.

Icahn also successfully pressured Hain to accept two board members of Icahn's choosing -- including his son.

During the year, Hain Celestial bought numerous smaller companies, notably The Greek Gods line of Mediterranean-style yogurts.

It finished fiscal 2011, on June 30, with a very strong final quarter with net sales of $292 million, up from $222.7 million in the same quarter last year, and net profit for the quarter of $12.8 million, up from $6.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

For the full year, net sales were up 23 percent over the previous fiscal year ending June 30, 2010, and net income was up 92 percent. Annual sales were $1.13 billion, up from $917 million the previous year, and profit was $54.9 million, up from $29.6 million the previous year.

The company reported yearly earnings of $1.23 per diluted share, compared to earnings of $0.69 per diluted share in the prior year.

Hain said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that its "growth momentum continued across its worldwide portfolio of brands in various classes of trade including natural, grocery, club, mass and dot-com channels coupled with contributions from strategic acquisitions."

Chief executive Irwin Simon  who publicly said he had been collaborative and collegial in his response to Icahn's interest in Hain, said in the annual report that the year ended with the best three-month period in its history. He also said he expected continued strong profits and sales, and noted that Hain "delivered productivity savings in excess of $17 million."

Photo: Hain Celestial founder Irwin Simon with some of the company's products.

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