Blood is not thicker than soup.
With that in mind, we think it's not foolish to expect that U.S. food icon Campbell Soup Co. (CPB) , with shrinking earnings, revenue, and stock price could draw an activist investor as tastes change, and technological developments alter the industry's traditional M&A landscape.
An activist could face a difficult road to gaining influence at Camden. N.J.-based Campbell absent support from at least some of the company insiders. Roughly 42% of the company stock is held by insiders according to data from FactSet Research Systems Inc., including many members of the far-flung founding family of Dorrances.
But it wouldn't be impossible for an activist to gain some family support. With the company's stock price near a 52-week low and the firm predicting continued weakness, the founder's far-removed heirs may be looking to boost returns either with faster growth or more profitable investments.
The company, some say belatedly, expanded its efforts to meet rocketing demand for fresher, healthier products with its $700 million acquisition of privately held organic foods company Pacific Foods, which has about $220 million in annual sales.
Pacific Foods specializes in organic broth and soup products, shelf-stable, plant-based beverages and other natural foods products.
At the time Campbell CEO Denise Morrison said, "The acquisition allows us to expand into faster-growing spaces such as organic and functional food. It advances our strategic imperatives around real food, transparency, sustainability and health and well-being."
It remains to be seen if that deal, lauded as a smart strategic move, turns out to be a smart financial one.
The deal, Campbell said, will be earnings neutral for the first year and slightly accretive going forward. But the price, at 20 times Ebitda, is rich, though it is costly to buy into organic business lines.
An activist could look to continue down that route, hoping to build the company to compete with other industry players looking to do the same thing.
But Campbell drove chatter on Wall Street Tuesday, Nov. 21, as its earnings report emerged at the same time reports circulated about developments at another activist story. Activist-targeted Nestle SA is reportedly interested in buying Terra Chip maker Hain Celestial Group Inc. (HAIN) , as part of an effort to expand into healthier offerings.
Campbell and several other firms are also reported to be interested in Hain assets.
Activist Glen Welling and his Engaged Capital LLC are in the driver's seat at Hain, having won six board seats in a settlement with the company earlier this year.