Little m.&a. fever revealed in market response to Kraft

by Josh Sosland
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While the takeover of a major player in a given economic sector often triggers a wave of speculation about “who will be next,” merger and acquisition enthusiasm in the food industry appears modest at best in the immediate aftermath of the announcement of the prospective marriage between Kraft Foods Group and H.J. Heinz Co.

The Heinz deal, in which Kraft shareholders will be paid a combination of stock and cash, is valued at north of $50 billion, based on the appreciated value of Kraft shares, It is the largest ever food merger. The transaction follows a period of worsening financial struggles for Kraft since its 2012 spin-off from Mondelez International, Inc. Kraft has not been alone among packaged foods companies struggling recently to reach financial objectives. Several other large companies in the sector have been under pressure to take bold action to restore growth.

A review of share price performance last week of major industry players suggests that while the deal was not shrugged off completely, there is little expectation of Heinz-Kraft contagion. In a down week for the five days ended March 26, modest gains were posted by ConAgra Foods, Inc.; General Mills, Inc.; The Kellogg Co.; and The J.M. Smucker Co. Perhaps the quiet reflects the unique role in food carved out by the buyers — 3G Capital and Berkshire Hathaway. Still, betting against further transactions is foolish, even if none is imminent.

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