DealZone

Deals wrap: Coke acting like a VC

July 26, 2010

The Coca-Cola Co – the world’s largest beverage producer – has been thinking and acting more like a venture capital firm over the last few years, as it attempts to find new ways to increase profits and stay ahead of the competition,  according to a Reuters exclusive.

Coke’s Venturing and Emerging Brands unit, dubbed VEB, was founded in 2007 with the purpose of investing in independent brands, like Honest Tea and Zico coconut water. VEB president Deryck van Rensburg told Reuters the venture arm currently receives three to four unsolicited pitches per week from entrepreneurs. Van Rensburg added it was “not inconceivable” for it to work in other places, such as China, where there is “a huge entrepreneurial community.”

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Pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline is also looking at smaller strategic acquisitions. Glaxo CEO Andrew Witty told French daily La Tribune: “We may do small targeted deals, but nothing big. We will not do a large transaction in pharma nor in generics.”

For a Big Pharma company like Glaxo small is a relative term, as it is reportedly kicking the tires on a potential acquisition of U.S. biotech firm Genzyme, along with rival Sanofi-Aventis. The rumored deal last week sent Genzyme’s market value soaring 15 percent to $16.7 billion.

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The trend of private equity firms buying up consumer-oriented food companies continued with the announcement that Lion Capital intends to purchase French frozen-food firm Picard Surgeles from rival BC Partners. According to Reuters, the deal would be France’s biggest leveraged buyout since the collapse of Lehman Brothers. The Reuters story also quoted “three people familiar with the matter” that Picard had a pre-deal value of about 1.5 billion euros ($1.9 billion).

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The euphoria of Tesla’s initial public offering last month, which raised $226.1 million, has faded along with the electric-car company’s share price, dropping from an early high of $30.42 to it’s current $21.13 (TSLA.O) as of 11:50 a.m. EDT on Monday. In a New York Times DealBook blog an analyst compared Tesla to the futuristic car company founded by John DeLorean in the early 1980s.

“It eerily reminds me of the DeLorean,” Scott Sweet, a partner at a financial advisory firm called IPO Boutique, told The New York Times, alluding to DeLorean’s company that declared bankruptcy after producing just one model.

Photo credit: The Coca-Cola logo is advertised on a truck in Gilbert, Arizona October 20, 2009. REUTERS/Joshua Lott

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