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Melville natural food maker doubles its yearly profit

Greek Gods yogurt, a Hain Celestial brand.

Greek Gods yogurt, a Hain Celestial brand. Photo Credit: Hain Celestial Group Inc.

The Hain Celestial Group Inc. nearly doubled its year-to-year profit, the company reported Tuesday.

For the Melville maker of natural and organic foods, it was a year when it came under increasing scrutiny from Wall Street as activist investor Carl Icahn repeatedly upped his stake in Hain to more than 16 percent. Icahn also pressured Hain to accept two board members of his choosing -- including his son.

During the year Hain Celestial bought numerous smaller companies, notably The Greek Gods yogurt.

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."

Irwin D. Simon, the president and chief executive -- who publicly said he had been collaborative and collegial in his response to Icahn's interest in Hain -- said 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."

"Our fourth quarter results complete a strong year across our business with solid top- and bottom-line performance . . . ," Simon said.

"Indications are that despite ongoing challenges in the economy, consumers continue to seek out healthful products from our natural and organic brands."

During the year, in addition to buying The Greek Gods yogurt, Hain bought two European brands -- Danival, a maker of "branded organic sweet and salted grocery products", and GG UniqueFiber, a natural grain products maker.

In Asia, the Hutchison Hain Organic joint venture in China introduced the Earth's Best and Zhi Ling Tong co-branded infant formula.

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