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Google's KitKat Deal Lessons for Investors

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- When Google (GOOG - Get Report) announced this week that it would re-name the next version of its Android software KitKat, after a candy bar, many American outlets got the story wrong.

TheStreet wasn't among them because we went with the press release.

I suspected such a thing would happen because I spent the weekend in York, England, at the Chocolate Museum. The KitKat bar was invented in York, by a candy maker called Rowntree's that wanted something miners could take down for lunch during the Depression.

Rowntree licensed the KitKat name for the U.S. to Hershey (HSY - Get Report) in the 1970s, but when the company was sold, in 1988, they sold to its rival Nestle (NSRGY), although calling Hershey's and Nestle rivals is a bit like comparing York's own League Two Minstermen to Manchester United. The game's the same, it's just played on a different scale.

Nestle maintained the Hershey agreement, keeping the rights in the rest of the world. Hershey's will produce Android-themed candy in the United States and Nestle will do it everywhere else.

You should also know that a Nestle KitKat can be quite different from a Hershey KitKat. Nestle once licensed KitKat to a company called Fujiya, which produced it in dozens of flavors from red bean to wasabi. Nestle bought out Fujiya's KitKat share in 2000, but maintained the strange flavors, and uses flavors like orange in Europe.

Nestle itself is a Microsoft (MSFT - Get Report) among food companies, in that it's enormous and into everything. It has a market cap of $207 billion and 339,000 employees, making everything from Purina dog food to HotPockets hand-held snacks to Gerber baby food.

Nestle stock trades like Microsoft, too, heavily but in a fairly narrow range. It had revenue of $101 billion last year, bringing $11.6 billion of that to the net income line, $3.62 per share, so its trailing price-to-earnings multiple is 17.88, well ahead of the software company.

Hershey's is more comparable to Micron (MU - Get Report), the memory chip company, because it focuses on one key area, in this case sweets. Its market cap is $20.3 billion, it has 12,100 employees, and it got out of its biggest diversification, the Friendly chain of ice cream parlors, a quarter-century ago.
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