McCormick & Co.'s (MKC - Get Report) deal to buy the food division of Britain's Reckitt Benckiser Group plc (RBGLY) , coupled with activists going after Procter & Gamble (PG - Get Report) and Nestle SA (NSRGY) , has sparked a frenzy of speculation in the consumer staples market.
McCormick late Tuesday said it had agreed to pay $4.2 billion for Reckitt's food division, which includes French's mustard, Frank's Red Hot Sauce and Cattleman's BBQ Sauce.
Consumer brands giant Unilever plc (UL) was rumored to have involved in a bidding war for the division, which includes French's mustard, Frank's Red Hot Sauce and Cattleman's BBQ Sauce. Hormel Foods (HRL - Get Report) and Birds Eyes Pinnacle Foods (PF) were also said to be bidders in a Sunday Times article on July 16.
Unilever shares were up at 0.35%, changing hands at 4,305 pence, extending a 9.22% over the past three months, while Premier Foods plc PRRFY, a former McCormick target, gained around 0.5% after having lost 11.05% over the past three months.
The maker of flavorings Bisto and Oxo and desert Angel Delight was the subject of a £537.3 million ($700 million) takeover bid by McCormick in 2016. In April 2016, McCormick walked away from the negotiating table saying it would not be able to match the price considered acceptable by Premier Foods' board.
The move by McCormick comes at a changing time for the food industry. Unilever earlier in the year was the subject of an aborted takeover bid by Kraft Heinz Co. (KHC - Get Report) , at $143 billion it would have been the biggest takeover in the sector. Under British corporate law, Kraft Heinz was legally prohibited from making another bid for six months.
However, that bid may be upped significantly according to one analyst. Kraft Heinz will once again be able to make a play for Unilever in mid-August and with the activist movement in the sector heating up that is looking more likely.
It is assumed a reloaded Kraft Heinz buyout bid will be in the range of $200 billion, according to Susquehanna International Group investment analyst Pablo Zuanic.
"We are now coming to the view that a hostile bid (for Unilever) is more than 75 percent likely," he wrote in a July 9 report.
Nestle shares were 0.66% up, changing hands at €83.55, extending a three-month gain of 11.1%.
Nestle, which is already flogging its U.S. confectionary, business is under pressure from Dan Loeb's Third Point LLC, which in June revealed it had built a 1% stake in Nestle, which would put the group among the ten largest shareholders of the Vevy, Switzerland-based group and wants management to pursue a series of options it argues would unlock shareholder value, including the sale of its 23% stake in luxury goods maker L'Oreal SA (LRLCY) .