For years, a smoldering George Clooney would sip his espresso and ask: “Nespresso…what else?” Turns out the answer is: Starbucks.
In the third-biggest transaction in Nestle SA’s 152-year history, the Swiss food giant will spend $7.15 billion for the right to market Starbucks Corp. products from beans to capsules, marrying its international distribution network with the allure of arguably the biggest name in java.
Nestle won’t get any physical assets in the deal. Instead, Chief Executive Officer Mark Schneider is harnessing the name recognition of Starbucks, with its 28,000 outlets around the globe and massive draw in the U.S. Nestle has struggled there for years with its own products like Nespresso and Dolce Gusto.
Nestle could use a jolt — sales rose at their weakest pace in more than two decades last year. By entering a marketing pact with Starbucks, the Swiss company is revealing the limits to growing with Nescafe and Nespresso.
“Nestle needed a big brand, and they needed one fast,” said Alain Oberhuber, an analyst at MainFirst Bank in Zurich. “Starbucks is the only strong brand in roast-and-ground. It’s a rather defensive move — a bit late — but nevertheless, a strategically absolutely vital step.”
Starbucks shares rose less than 1 percent in New York trading. The company said it will use the deal proceeds to accelerate stock buybacks. Nestle gained as much as 1.8 percent in Zurich. Its shares have dropped about 7 percent this year.
Nestle’s Nespresso portioned-coffee business is one of its largest growth engines, but knockoff capsules — including Starbucks-branded ones — that are compatible with the machines have dented revenue. The new deal will give the Swiss company control of Starbucks capsules, among other products. It comes as Nestle’s Nescafe brand of instant coffees has lost market share in four of the past five years, according to Euromonitor.