CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Hain Celestial CEO Irwin Simon Speaks with CNBC’s Sara Eisen on “Squawk Alley”
WHEN: Today, Thursday, June 22nd
WHERE: CNBC's "Squawk Alley"
Following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Hain Celestial CEO Irwin Simon and CNBC's Sara Eisen on "Squawk Alley" (M-F, 11AM-12PM ET) today, Thursday, June 22nd.
All references must be sourced to CNBC.
SARA EISEN: YES. I MADE MY WAY TO THE FLOOR, KELLY, TO TALK ABOUT HAIN CELESTIAL BECAUSE IT RELEASED ITS LONG DELAYED FINANCIALS THIS MORNING AS WELL AS ANNOUNCING A NEW CFO. ITS BEEN A VOLATILE YEAR FOR THE COMPANY AFTER ANNOUNCING LAST SUMMER IT WAS INVESTIGATING ITS OWN ACCOUNTING PRACTICES. AS YOU CAN SEE, JOINING ME IN A CNBC EXCLUSIVE, THE CEO AND FOUNDER OF HAIN, IRWIN SIMON. WELCOME BACK, IRWIN.
IRWIN SIMON: HI SARA, HOW ARE YOU? NICE TO SEE YOU.
EISEN: SO THE BIG HEADLINE OUT OF YOUR INVESTIGATION IS NO RESTATEMENT OF EARNINGS. AND YOU DIDNT FIND ANY EVIDENCE OF FINANCIAL WRONGDOING. SO WHAT TOOK SO LONG?
SIMON: SO, NUMBER ONE IS, SARA, LISTEN, WE IDENTIFIED THIS LAST YEAR AND WITH THAT WE DID AN EXTENSIVE REVIEW OF ALL OUR FINANCIALS GOING BACK TO 2014. WE LOOKED AT CUSTOMERS AROUND THE WORLD. AND WE TAKE GOVERNANCE VERY SERIOUSLY AND WE WANT TO ENSURE THAT WE GOT IT 100% RIGHT. AND WITH THAT, I CAN SIT HERE TODAY AND SAY, AGAIN, WE GO BACK TO NOVEMBER AND SAID NO INTENTIONAL WRONGDOING. NO MATERIAL CHANGE TO OUR FINANCIALS. E&Y MAINTAIN THEIR OPINION.
EISEN: ERNST AND YOUNG.
SIMON: ERNST AND YOUNG. AND NOW IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON AND BUILD OUR BUSINESS AND TAKE IT TO NEXT LEVEL.
EISEN: WHAT WAS IT? WHAT WAS THE PROBLEM THAT LED TO SUCH A DEEP DIVE INTO THE ACCOUNTING?
SIMON: SO WITH THAT, AS WE LOOKED AT CERTAIN THINGS IN REGARDS TO REVENUE RECOGNITION, SOMETHING WAS IDENTIFIED AND WITH THAT, TODAY, WE LOOKED INTO IT. AND AS YOU HEARD ME SAY, THE GOOD NEWS IS THERE IS NO MATERIAL CHANGE FOR OUR FINANCIALS WHICH IS A GREAT OUTCOME.
EISEN: WE DID GET THE FINANCIAL RESULTS FROM MORE THAN A YEAR BACK AND THEY WERE SOMEWHAT DISAPPOINTING. THE BUSINESS SLOWED OVER THE LAST YEAR.
SIMON: WELL, LISTEN, IT'S BEEN A DIFFICULT YEAR, BUT THERE WERE A LOT OF THINGS OUT OF MY CONTROL. NUMBER ONE, CURRENCY AFFECTED US BY $20 MILLION IN THE UK. NUMBER TWO, REGARDS TO OUR PROTEIN BUSINESS, TURKEY PRICES CAME DOWN. NUMBER THREE, WE HAD SOME ISSUES WITH EL NINO AND OUR FRUIT BUSINESS IN THE UK. ON THE OTHER HAND THOUGH, LISTEN, OUR BUSINESS STILL GREW 4% CONSIDERING ALL THAT HAPPENED. WE THREW OFF CLOSE TO $150 MILLION OF CASH. WELL PAY DOWN OVER $210 MILLION OF DEBT. BUT THE THING IS THROUGHOUT THIS YEAR, SARA, WE SPENT TIME EVALUATING OUR BUSINESS. WE ANNOUNCED TODAY WERE GOING TO TAKE $350 MILLION OF COSTS OUT OF THE BUSINESS. WE ANNOUNCED A STOCK BUYBACK PROGRAM. THROUGHOUT THIS NUMEROUS MANAGEMENT CHANGES. AND LISTEN, WE'RE IN A GREAT CATEGORY IN HEALTH AND WELLNESS. THE CONSUMER WILL CONTINUE TO EAT HEALTHY. WE'LL CONTINUE TO, YOU KNOW, LOOK FOR BETTER FOR YOU PRODUCTS AND WE HAVE THE BRANDS AND PRODUCTS THAT CONSUMERS WANT.
EISEN: IRWIN, THE STOCK POPPED INITIALLY ON THE NEWS AT THE OPEN. WE'RE LOOKING AT IT NOW DOWN ALMOST 4%. DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE A LONG WAY TO GO WHEN IT COMES TO RESTORING CREDIBILITY WITH INVESTORS HERE?
SIMON: LISTEN, I THINK IT'S IMPORTANT TO GET OUT THERE AND TELL OUR STORY, OKAY? TELL OUR STORY ABOUT OUR BRANDS, TELL OUR STORY ABOUT OUR POSITIONING, TELL OUR STORY ABOUT WHAT WE'RE GOING TO DO. AND I COME BACK. I FEEL GOOD ABOUT OUR STORY. I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE PLAN THAT WE HAVE IN PLACE. WE ANNOUNCED TODAY, YOU KNOW, LIKE I SAID –
EISEN: YOU HAVE AN OPTIMISTIC 2018 OUTLOOK. THE QUESTION IS ARE ALL OF THE PROBLEMS THAT YOU FACED IN THE LAST YEAR JUST TEMPORARY?
SIMON: SO, STEPPING BACK, I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THEM GOING INTO Q4. A LOT OF THESE ISSUES HAVE BEEN MITIGATED ALREADY. AND WHETHER ITS CURRENCY, WE GOT STOCK – WE GOT PRICING. WHETHER ITS PROTEIN WERE SEEING GOOD RESULTS COMING FROM IT. YOU KNOW, CURRENCY IS CURRENCY IN REGARDS TO OUR SKU RATIONALIZATION, IN REGARDS TO OUR INVENTORY REDUCTIONS, THEY'RE BEHIND US. SO YEAH, I FEEL GOOD ABOUT GOING INTO 2018. BUT WHAT I FEEL GOOD ABOUT IS THE BRANDS THAT WE OWN TODAY, THE PRODUCTS THAT WE OWN GLOBALLY AROUND THE WORLD AND I FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE CONSUMER WANTING MORE AND MORE HEALTHIER PRODUCTS.
EISEN: IS THAT WHY YOU HAVE DECIDED TO STAY ON? THIS HAS BEEN A DIFFICULT YEAR FOR YOU PERSONALLY.
SIMON: WELL, I'VE DECIDED TO STAY ON. LISTEN, THIS IS SOMETHING I FOUNDED 23 YEARS AGO AND THIS IS SOMETHING THAT, YOU KNOW, CONTINUES TO GROW, CONTINUES TO EVOLVE AND WITH THAT, I THINK THERES LOTS OF, YOU KNOW, RUNWAY LEFT WITHIN HAIN AND THERE'S LOTS OF RUNWAY LEFT WITHIN ME.
EISEN: WELL, IT'S A QUESTION THAT IS TOPICAL BECAUSE IN LIGHT OF UBER'S RECENT STRUGGLES, WE'RE LEFT WONDERING WHETHER A FOUNDER SHOULD STAY ON WHEN A COMPANY HAS A MAJOR CRISIS OR NOT.
SIMON: WELL, LISTEN, THE GOOD NEWS IS WE NAVIGATED THROUGH THIS AND THIS WAS A DIFFICULT NAVIGATION TO NAVIGATE THROUGH. IN REGARDS TO THE BUSINESS, I FEEL THAT BUSINESS IS ON TRACK. BUT, YOU KNOW, ONE OF THE BIG THINGS IS THIS HERE. WE REALLY HAVE PUT A STRONG MANAGEMENT TEAM TO WORK BESIDE ME TO REALLY TAKE THIS BUSINESS TO THE NEXT LEVEL. AND, AGAIN, WE HAVE THE PRODUCTS. WE HAVE THE PEOPLE, WE HAVE THE STRATEGY AND I REALLY BELIEVE THAT WE HAVE CONSUMERS THAT WANT TO BUY OUR PRODUCTS.
EISEN: SO YOUR BIGGEST CUSTOMER IS WHOLE FOODS, AND INVESTORS WEREN'T EXACTLY CONVINCED AS YOU TOLD THEM THIS MORNING ON THE CONFERENCE CALL THAT THE AMAZON BUYING WHOLE FOODS PURCHASE WOULD BE A GOOD THING FOR HAIN. WHY DO YOU BELIEVE THAT?
SIMON: WELL, FIRST OF ALL, WHOLE FOODS IS, AS YOU SAY, ONE OF OUR BIGGEST CUSTOMERS. AMAZON IS ONE OF OUR FASTEST GROWING CUSTOMERS. LISTEN, THEY WANT NATURAL ORGANIC PRODUCTS. AS ONE OF THE LARGEST PROVIDERS OF NATURAL ORGANIC PRODUCTS, AND THE BARRIER TO ENTRY INTO THIS CATEGORY WHETHER ITS SUPPLY OR MANUFACTURING, HAIN HAS A STRONG POSITION THERE. NUMBER TWO IS, LISTEN –
EISEN: BUT THE FEAR IS THEY'LL JUST LOWER PRICES AND THE MARGINS WILL GET HIT.
SIMON: WELL, LOWER PRICES, BUT ONE OF THE THINGS WE'VE ANNOUNCED ARE COST CUTTING THAT ARE GOING TO TAKE COSTS OUT OF OUR BUSINESS THAT SHOULD ENHANCE OUR MARGINS. BUT NOT ONLY WHOLE FOODS AND AMAZON SELL OUR PRODUCTS. WE SELL OUR PRODUCTS ALL OVER THE WORLD IN 85 DIFFERENT COUNTRIES. SO THERE'S A LOT OF DEMAND. I THINK THE BIGGER OPPORTUNITY FOR US, SARA, IS THIS HERE. AS WHOLE FOODS AND AMAZON LOOK TO SELL MORE AND MORE HEALTHIER PRODUCTS, IT CUTS INTO OTHER CONVENTIONAL PRODUCTS WHERE CONSUMERS ARE GOING TO WANT MORE AND MORE NATURAL PRODUCTS. AND THEY ARE GOING TO WANT MORE AND MORE HAIN PRODUCTS WHETHER ITS EARTH'S BEST, WHETHER IT'S TERRA CHIPS, WHETHER IT IS ARROWHEAD MILLS, ADD ACCESS TO IT. THIS GIVES US TREMENDOUS, TREMENDOUS ACCESS WHERE WE CAN SELL MORE AND MORE OF OUR PRODUCTS.
EISEN: SO, HOW DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF GROCERY FINALLY PLAYING OUT? YOU SELL TO KROGER, YOU SELL TO WALMART, YOU HAVE ALL OF THEM.
SIMON: SO, LISTEN, I THINK I COME BACK AND I SAY THIS HERE. ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT AMAZON BUYING WHOLE FOODS, IT STILL SHOWS THE IMPORTANCE OF BRICK AND MORTAR. BRICK AND MORTAR IS GOING TO BE HERE FOR GROCERY BUSINESS. IT ALSO SHOWS ECOMMERCE IS A BIG PART OF THE GROCERY BUSINESS. THE OTHER THING IS GLOBAL BRANDS YOU KNOW, WE JUST DID A JOINT VENTURE IN INDIA. THERES 1.3 BILLION PEOPLE IN INDIA, 26 MILLION NEW BABIES BORN EVERY YEAR. SO THE OPPORTUNITY IS ON GLOBALIZATION AND HAIN IS POSITIONED FOR THAT.
EISEN: IRWIN SIMON, THANK YOU FOR JOINING US TO SHARE YOUR STORY.
SIMON: THANK YOU, SARA.
EISEN: COMING BACK OUT WITH THE FINANCIAL RESULTS. THE CEO AND FOUNDER OF HAIN CELESTIAL.
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