When big companies buy smaller companies for a relatively small amount compared to their assets, we tend to shrug the deal off.
The strategy has been to gradually expand the product line and gain control of the input costs and supply chain needed to gain the most profit from that expansion. In the case of La Boulange, what's a cup of coffee without a nice pastry? Starbucks has been selling baked goods in its stores for years.
And pastry is hot right now. We had a donut shop open up around the corner from us last week, and the line was literally out the door. Starbucks can now plant that flag anywhere it wants. It can go more heavily into grocery stores, and it can do lunch.
Also, it didn't just buy a bakery chain. It bought Pascal Rigo, a French-born and French-trained baker who had grown his company to 100 outlets in a demanding market -- northern California -- and will now become a Starbucks vice president. The deal was done through his main investor, Next World Group -- Howard Schultz may have just gotten himself a valuable lieutenant.
Believe it or not, this is Starbucks' biggest acquisition to date. Think of that, a company with a market cap of nearly $41 billion and its biggest acquisition has been $100 million? That's an outfit that isn't going to dilute your equity.
Its last deal, in 2011, was $30 million for Evolution Fresh, which makes juices like those found in every Starbucks I've ever seen. In 2005 it bought Ethos Water, which is a regular in their refrigerator cases. And in 1998 it acquired Tazo Tea, another product you'll usually find where better coffee is served.
Beyond that, Starbucks has mainly been buying other coffee shops. It has bought out many of its operators in other countries. The company bought Seattle Coffee. If you're looking for investments that make you go "wah," you have to go back into the last century, when it acquired part of Cooking.com and bought Hear Music during the height of the dot-com era. (We were all young and crazy then.)
Put it all together and you have a company that makes deals which make sense. That's the kind of company you want to put your money in.
Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.