That's going to spur a lot of talk along the lines of: what is Mondelez going to do with the $23 billion it isn't going to spend on the chocolate maker?
So, for the record, branded products companies are gasping for anything approaching organic growth. We, as a society, have officially reached the saturation point in our appetite for the stuff that's in our cupboards, whether it's dried pasta, aerosol cheese or condensed milk.
For growth, branded products companies have to acquire it. Roll up what's either a complimentary operator or, even better, a competitor, and the CEO gets to tell investors, "See, I've achieved what nobody else in our industry is able to do: I've swollen the top line. Appreciably." Granted that growth will likely be with products that have the same paltry margins its existing stable of portfolio brands evidence--but growth is growth, and growth is hard to come by.
Ergo, Mondelez sees Hershey and wants it like a fat kid who presses his face up against the glass of the concession stand at the movie theater.
But Hershey, which has been courted by wanna-be takeover professionals for years, has always had a trump card to play as a takeover defense: the Hershey Trust, which has enough of a stake that it's got to be convinced. And, so far, nobody has measured up. Mondelez isn't the greatest suitor, it's just the latest suitor.
So what's next? General Mills has been mentioned. But General Mills doesn't have a portfolio that syncs up with Mondelez. Mondelez makes stuff consumers eat with their hands. General Mills makes stuff you eat off a plate or out of a bowl.
Now, given the merger mania in the branded products space, there's a chance that General Mills gets chased into the arms of another player just to fend off the likes of a Mondelez. PepsiCo (PEP) - Get Report has been mentioned. But Pepsi has an equally non-polar product portfolio.
Kraft Heinz (KHC) - Get Report makes more sense. And Kraft Heinz has the backing of the eternally patient Warren Buffett, as well as the Mexican takeover enterprise 3G Capital, which has to be drawn to the cost cutting initiatives that General Mills has already put in place.
The decision by Mondelez to walk away from its Hershey bid--obvious as it might have seem two months ago--is nevertheless likely to shake the branded products space the way pounding the table upends the Monopoly board, under similar circumstances. And it's hard to exactingly predict the ultimate circumstances.
Let's just say that the next several months will be pretty interesting for bankers working the sector. And could provide some compelling opportunities for traders, given that the ceaseless speculation is going to keep the valuations - already a little overwrought, was General Mills commanding something on the order of 26 times - pretty ripe.