With the $13.7 billion purchase of Whole Foods Market Inc. (WFM) , Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com Inc. (AMZN) are following the example tech elites that have been made multi-billion dollar transactions. Bezos has not completely re-written his M&A playbook, however.
"One of the things I find amazing about Amazon is that they've been able to become so big without making a lot of very large acquisitions," said Maxim Group analyst Tom Forte regarding the e-commerce, media and cloud computing company's approach to deals.
Investors seem happy with Bezos' increased M&A budget, with Amazon shares rising 2.6% to $989.00 on Friday. The stock was up more than 3% earlier, with the $15 billion increase in market cap exceeding the price tag Whole Foods.
Given Amazon's $475 billion market cap, Bezos has been relatively parsimonious. Amazon's largest deals were the nearly $1 billion purchase of e-game video streaming company Twitch Interactive Inc. in 2014 and the 2009 acquisition of Zappos.com, which was worth $1.2 billion at closing because of gains in Amazon's share price.
The playbook that Amazon seems to be employing is one that has already been written by many in the tech industry, including large-caps Alphabet Inc's (GOOGL) Google, Facebook Inc. (FB) and Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) , among others.
Consider Bezos' Seattle-area neighbor Satya Nadella, who runs Microsoft, valued at $535 billion. Nadella agreed to dish out $26.2 billion for LinkedIn Corp. last year and $2.5 billion for Minecraft game-maker Mojang Synergies AB in 2014. Nadella's predecessor Steve Ballmer paid $8.5 billion for Skype Global SA in 2011.
Facebook Chairman and CEO Mark Zuckerberg paid $19 billion for messaging platform WhatsApp in 2014 and $2 billion for augmented reality company Oculus VR just months later.
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Alphabet Chairman Eric Schmidt and CEO Larry Page paid $1 billion and up when they ran Google. Schmidt bought YouTube for $1.65 billion in 2006 and paid $3.1 billion for online marketing firm DoubleClick the year after, while Page acquired smart-thermostat maker Nest for $3.2 billion in 2014.
Even Apple Inc. (AAPL) , which eschews large acquisitions that could disrupt its seamless fusion of branding and tech, paid about $3 billion for Beats under Tim Cook in 2014.
With Whole Foods, Bezos has increased the M&A budget. Amazon still deployed a build-first, buy-second approach that has frequently deployed, trying to develop a business itself before making an acquisition. Prior examples include the purchase of shoe retailer Zappos.com and the $545 million purchase of Diapers.com parent Quidsi Inc. in 2010.
"They attempted to build their grocery effort on their own, were not completely happy with their results and saw an opportunity to acquire a company with a material, significant footprint that was not overbuilt," Forte said. "The quality of the locations was good and the brand was strong as well."
"While the size of the tans is multiples higher than it was in the past the strategy was similar," Forte said.
The purchase would not foreclose a purchase of Slack Technologies Inc., the analyst suggested. Amazon reportedly has explored a purchase of messaging outfit Slack for a valuation around $9 billion.
"[Whole Foods] in my mind now opens the door for possibilities that the companies would seek larger transactions than it has historically," Forte said.
Even though Amazon is paying up for Whole Foods, the roughly $15 billion gain in its market cap, according to FactSet, exceeds the price tag. The market is rewarding Bezos, rather than penalizing him, for his new, big-spending ways.
"That's an interesting way of thinking about how we should think about the consequences of Amazon making more large-sale transactions," Forte added.
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