3 SodaStream Suitors That Make Sense

The silly buzz behind PepsiCo (NYSE: PEP  ) buying SodaStream (NASDAQ: SODA  ) has gone mercifully flat, and that makes Oppenheimer's move yesterday -- boosting its price target on SodaStream from $68 to $85 -- all that more significant.

It's not about the takeover chatter that more often than not proves bogus. Investors should buy into a company only if they think it will eventually be worth more on its own.

SodaStream once again proved its ability to thrive as a swinging single on Monday. Whirlpool (NYSE: WHR  ) teaming up with SodaStream to jointly develop a carbonation system is a pretty big deal. It's a brand stretcher. It's validation. It's a win-win move.

However, shares of SodaStream somehow closed lower on the news. The stock closed lower yesterday, too, despite the Oppenheimer analyst move.

It's pretty clear what's happening. Speculators who hopped on expecting a PepsiCo buyout at $95 earlier this month are moving on.

It's only fair. SodaStream's shares soared 14% through the first two weeks of the month almost entirely on reports out of Israel claiming that PepsiCo had made a $2 billion buyout offer. The actual fundamentals at SodaStream never really improved at that time. Now that we're seeing legitimate catalysts in the form of an analyst's improving view and a partnership with a major appliance maker that's being offset by the selling that follows deflated buyout buzz.

PepsiCo was never going to buy SodaStream. Why would it? Why would it anger its bottlers and confuse consumers by advocating a model that would destroy its overall profitability?

No one should be surprised if someone does buy SodaStream. It just won't be PepsiCo. That rumor was insane.

Soda suitors
Who would make more sense as a potential suitor? I'm glad you asked. I'll go over three companies that would be far more realistic buyers, though naturally I'm not under the impression that any of these giants will go through with a deal.

Let's start with Whirlpool. The company behind major Maytag appliances and smaller KitchenAid appliances wouldn't be putting out a "Powered by SodaStream" home-based beverage maker if it didn't see the potential.

Whirlpool is also hungry for growth. Sales fell last year and should be flattish in 2013. Despite the housing boom that would seem to benefit Maytag appliances, growth just isn't happening. SodaStream would be too small to move the needle for a company with more than $18 billion in sales, but this could also be a way to diversify geographically.

More than half of Whirlpool's sales came from North America in its latest quarter. Add in Latin America and we're talking about more than 80% of Whirlpool's business. SodaStream is growing quickly in North and South America, but that's just 41% of its revenue. SodaStream's biggest market remains Western Europe. Buying SodaStream could be an important step in Whirlpool growing its global footprint.

Kraft Foods (NASDAQ: KRFT  ) and Campbell Soup (NYSE: CPB  ) are the other two buyers that make sense. They already have working relationships with SodaStream.

Kraft kicked things off more than a year ago when it moved to team up with SodaStream to put out Crystal Light diet drinks and Country Time lemonade as carbonated flavors. The relationship was promising enough that a few months later it added Kool-Aid to the line of SodaStream beverages.

Campbell Soup has only provided its V8 Splash and V-Fusion product lines as SodaStream flavors, but Campbell is a serial acquirer. Revenue grew 15% in its latest quarter, but organic growth only clocked in 4% higher. Campbell isn't stopping. It has acquired two more companies since last month.

SodaStream would provide far more growth than Campbell and Kraft are doing organically in the low single digits, and they also have the distribution muscle to increase SodaStream's presence at the supermarket level, where the company's just starting to get its carbonated feet wet.

Will Whirlpool, Kraft, or Campbell actually buy SodaStream? They can. All three companies command market caps well north of $10 billion. However, they probably won't, and that would be the best thing for SodaStream investors.

As this week's Whirlpool deal shows, SodaStream is just starting to get busy with the fizzy.

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