Shares of Hain Celestial (HAIN) - Get Report were rocked when the company announced it would delay the release of its fourth-quarter and year-end results because it may have improperly accounted for some items.
When Hain said it would delay its earnings results, investors dumped the stock. The shares fell 32% on the news.
Can this investment be salvaged?
On Aug. 15, Hain management said it may have overstated revenue because the company granted distributors concessions (i.e. discounts) and may have accounted for those concessions in the wrong quarters. In accordance with SEC rules and regulations, management turned the investigation over to the audit committee, which has hired its own council.
The press release says the company is looking at the company's revenue recognition policy and internal controls. While it's hard to know how much revenue is involved, there's no question the company is going to miss the quarter and probably lower guidance.
This is the third surprise this fiscal year. The company reported two quarters of sales declines in the U.S. Growth resumed in the third quarter, but now it seems the third quarter was probably overstated.
Looked at another way, Hain missed the entire year. After a tough six months, investors had begun to question whether it could compete in an increasingly competitive marketplace. U.S. sales supposedly grew 2.7% (ex-currency) in the third quarter, but who knows if that is right.
With the stock off more than 30%, I know investors are tempted to buy the dip. But to me, growth is slowing much faster than expected and the stock will not be able to achieve the market multiple it once had.
Historically, the stock traded around 24 times forward estimates, but do you really think the market will give the company that kind of multiple again?
In 2013, revenue grew 25.9% and earnings were up 35%. Before the company reported this disaster, revenue was expected to grow just 9.5% and earnings were supposed to be up about 7%. Next year, the forecast was 7% revenue growth and 13% earnings growth. From 2015 to 2016, gross profit didn't grow at all. Now, gross profit will be down year over year.
Even if the adjustments the company makes to revenue are relatively small, what would be the catalyst to drive Hain higher?
Investors were trying to put the first half behind them by looking forward to easier comparisons, but now you'll have to look out to the December or March quarter of fiscal 2017 for easier comparisons.
And then, after being burned by terrible guidance all year and an accounting scandal, investors will need a few quarters to trust management again. Its unlikely the stock will jump back to its highs after this issue is cleared up.
If you want to buy, you'll have plenty of time. I would avoid the pain of Hain.
This article is commentary by an independent contributor. At the time of publication, the author held no positions in the stocks mentioned.