But the argument could be made that Wall Street wasn't expecting his latest food purchase. On Tuesday, Tyson Foods said it will spend $850 million to buy the poultry rendering and blending assets of American Proteins, Inc. and AMPRO Products, Inc.
The acquisition will enable Tyson Foods to recycle more animal products for feed, pet food and aquaculture. It will also expand Tyson's presence in the animal feed ingredient business. About 700 people will go to work for Tyson Foods, the company said in a press release. Over the next 12 months, Tyson expects to generate adjusted net sales of more than $550 million from the deal. No bottom line projections were offered.
"We are on the hunt," Hayes told TheStreet (video below) in late February when asked about the serial acquirer's appetite to make a new purchase. Hayes said Tyson's debt to Ebitda ratio should fall below a key internal target by the third quarter, opening up the path to go large on deal. The company's M&A pipeline is "full" of opportunities, Hayes said at the time.
But Hayes cautioned that with valuations "hot" right now, doing a deal of any size is not guaranteed. "Valuations are hot, it's a seller's market," Hayes said. With valuations off their peaks, it looks like now was the right time for Hayes to go shopping.
While Tyson Foods has been scooping up stakes in next generation meat companies such as Beyond Meat via its venture capital arm, it's last sizable acquisition was Hillshire Farms for $8.55 billion in 2014. In 2017, the company bought ready-to-eat purveyor AdvancePierre for a total value of $4.2 billion.
Despite his deal hunger, Hayes said he is unlikely to shock investors with an outrageous purchase. In other words, nothing in the mold of cereal giant General Mills (GIS - Get Report) buying natural pet food brand Blue Buffalo (BUFF) .
"For us to do something that would be a bit of a head-snapper for our investors, probably not." Poultry rendering is technically tied to Tyson's core business.