Campbell Soup Co. has been mentioned as a potential takeover target by a Brazilian investment firm, along with other well-known consumer brands.
The Wall Street Journal reported that 3G Capital Partners recently raised $5 billion from investors and was eyeing food and beverage companies after its 2013 purchase of H.J. Heinz Co. with partner Berkshire Hathaway Inc.
Other brands mentioned included Kellogg Co., PepsiCo, and Kraft Foods Group.
Campbell, headquartered in Camden, declined to comment. "We don't comment on speculation," said spokesman Tom Hushen.
Morningstar analyst Erin Lash said Campbell has been mentioned several times as a potential takeover candidate. "This is not the first time this rumor has come out," Lash said.
"From our perspective, we don't think Campbell will go the way of its packaged-food peer, Heinz, over the near term at least," Lash said. "Campbell's is still undergoing a turnaround, and it doesn't maintain the global distribution platform that Heinz boasts," making an acquisition less likely, she said.
Barron's magazine reported that acquiring Campbell and Kellogg could prove difficult because both companies have families and foundations that control sizable blocks of stock.
Four descendants of founder John Dorrance control about 41 percent of Campbell shares, giving them effective blocking rights, Barron's said. At Kellogg, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Trust owns 21 percent of the shares. Heinz did not have a large block of family-controlled shares.
Barron's Andrew Bary wrote, "3G is known for deep cost-cutting moves when it buys companies, and its harsh strategy might not sit well with paternalistic family members or foundation trustees."
Jonathan Feeney, food-industry analyst with Athlos Research L.L.C., in Wayne, said, "Other food companies might more easily be influenced by 3G's timing via their shareholders."
The Campbell board considered all options before Denise M. Morrison became CEO in August 2011, Feeney said.
When Mary Alice D. Malone and Bennett Dorrance, the two senior representatives of the Dorrance family and the largest shareholders, "decide the time is right, I think they would strongly consider a sensible combination or sale, among other options, but not one minute before," Feeney said.
Malone, Dorrance, and two other family members, Archibold D. van Beuren and Charlotte C. Weber, held $5.6 billion or 39.7 percent of Campbell's $14.1 billion market cap, as of Oct. 31, said Feeney.
He termed the family influence in Campbell "an effective blocking position for sure."
"No one is likely to take the company without their cooperation," Feeney added.
The company stock has performed well (up 60 percent or so, including dividends) since summer 2011 - "comparable or better than many bellwether food and beverage stocks," Feeney said. "Denise has done what she said she would do. So it really comes down to the Dorrances' personal preferences in consultation with the board." Campbell's stock closed at 45.53 Thursday, up 0.90 or 2.02 percent.
Founded in 1869, Campbell makes its namesake soup as well as other well-known brands, including Pepperidge Farm, Goldfish, Bolthouse Farms, Prego, and V8.