General Mills will pay $40 per share for Blue Buffalo, a price tag that represented a 19% premium when the transaction was announced before the market open Friday morning.
The deal is just the latest in a string of major acquisitions in the pet space lately. Last January, Mars, the candy company that also owns a large number of popular pet food brands, announced that it was buying veterinary clinic owner VCA Inc. in a deal worth $7.7 billion.
Other major human food companies that have gotten in on the pet-stock buying spree in recent years include J.M. Smucker (SJM) , Cargill and Nestle.
The reasons for that pet-centric investment aren't hard to understand -- spending on pet care has been exploding in recent years, as Americans become increasingly willing to pay for the finer things for their furry family members. Likewise, this is a trend that isn't likely to end soon.
That's why Friday we're turning to the charts for a technical look at three pet-care stocks that could end up becoming buyout targets in 2018.
Up first is small-cap pet food company Freshpet Inc. (FRPT) .
Freshpet is rallying this afternoon on the heels of the Blue Buffalo news, up more than 8.6% as investors weight the acquisition potential of this pet food stock. Freshpet operates on the higher end of the pet food spectrum with fresh refrigerated food, an extension of the exact same trend that's driven upside growth Blue Buffalo.
Technically speaking, Freshpet is in breakout mode Friday. Shares are pushing through prior resistance at the $20 level on the heels of the Blue Buffalo acquisition news. That opens the door to more upside for Freshpet in the near term.
PetMed Express Inc.
Meanwhile, the long-term trend is up and to the right in shares of pet pharmacy PetMed Express Inc. (PETS) .
PetMed Express has been in a fairly well-defined uptrending channel since bottoming back at the end of September. Ever since then, every test of trendline support has provided a low-risk, high-reward opportunity to be a buyer. While shares aren't reacting much to the Blue Buffalo news Friday, a bounce off of trendline support last week means that upside is more likely than not in the near term for PetMed.
Finally, another pet health play that poses a potential buyout target is pet health insurance plan provider Trupanion Inc. (TRUP) .
Trupanion is catching a bid this week more for technical reasons than because of the M&A activity happening in the pet space Friday. Shares have been in a well-defined uptrend since last summer, and after spending a prolonged period trading near the top of that price range, February's correction is giving investors a chance to buy Trupanion stock near trendline support for the third time in almost a year.
Simply put, this week's bounce off of support is a buy signal.
Risk-management is still key here despite the bullish setup shares of Trupanion are showing off here. It makes sense to park a protective stop on the other side of the 200-day moving average; if that line in the sand gets crossed, the long-term uptrend is broken. Meanwhile, shares are pointing up and to the right.