What you need to know about the European food delivery giant that beat Uber to a deal with Grubhub

Key Points
  • Just Eat is itself the result of a merger agreed earlier this year between the U.K.'s Just Eat and Netherlands-based Takeaway.
  • Now the newly formed entity is set to make yet another deal, beating Uber to buy Grubhub. The combination will help it enter the U.S. market.
  • Here's what you need to know about the European food delivery giant.
A Just Eat sign displayed at the front of a pizza takeaway shop on May 19, 2020 in Fleet, England.
Alex Burstow | Getty Images

Just Eat is a little-known name in the United States. That's in part due to the fact that it only recently came into existence as a brand after the combination of U.K. meal delivery app Just Eat and Dutch rival Takeaway.

It's also because it doesn't have a presence in the country. But that's about to change. The firm announced Wednesday that it would buy U.S. rival Grubhub for $7.3 billion, giving it a leg up in the race among European food delivery firms to enter the U.S. market and making it the world's biggest online food delivery operator outside China.

Here's what you need to know about the company that beat Uber to a deal with Grubhub.

Birthed from another deal

Just Eat didn't exist up earlier this year, after Amsterdam-based bought London-headquartered Just Eat for £6.2 billion ($7.8 billion).

The deal was thrown into doubt after U.K. competition regulators flagged concerns over a possible "substantial lessening of competition" back in January. But the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) ultimately gave's takeover of Just Eat the green light in April.

That was after it had already spent months fending off rival bids for Just Eat from Prosus, the tech investment arm of Naspers.

Full interview with Grubhub CEO on merger deal, pricing for restaurants and more
Full interview with Grubhub CEO on merger deal, pricing for restaurants and more previously ran its own U.K. food delivery operation, but sold its customer portfolio in the country to Just Eat in 2016.

Following its approval of the Just deal, the CMA said it agreed there was no "material likelihood" that could have re-entered the U.K. market without the Just Eat deal.

Analysts have said the U.S.-European tie-up will be more likely to win favor with antitrust regulators, since it would have given Uber dominance in its home market. If a hypothetical deal had happened with Uber?

U.S. access

Europe is home to a flourishing food delivery sector, with several well-established and upstart firms looking to gain traction in different geographies.

Germany's Delivery Hero was one of the European operators in the running for a deal with Grubhub. Outside of Germany, the firm operates in over 40 markets across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

And there are other rivals vying for dominance across various markets, from Britain's Deliveroo to Spain's Glovo.

Deliveroo last year won a $575 million investment round led by Amazon. But the deal has been put on hold due to another competition probe from the CMA. Though it was given provisional clearance in April, Amazon's stake in the firm is still frozen.

With the Grubhub deal, Just Eat will obtain something many fellow European players have failed to secure thus far: access to the U.S. market. While it is already active in Canada through Just Eat subsidiary SkipTheDishes, the firm doesn't yet have a presence in America.

Dan Ives, managing director of equity research Wedbush Securities, said he expected the Just Eat deal — though not perfect — will close thanks to fewer antitrust implications than would have resulted from an Uber takeover.

"JET has been consolidating on an international basis already, so it does have experience leveraging its best practices, technology, marketing, and delivery experience," Ives said in a note Thursday.

A better fit than Uber?

It's not just reduced antitrust risk that makes Just Eat a potentially better fit for Grubhub than Uber. Barry Norris, CEO and fund manager at Argonaut Capital Partners, said there was "mutual admiration" between the two firms' management teams, making their combination a "good cultural fit."

"We see Takeaway as the best managed company in this fast growing sector and the advantages of scale in terms of access to capital, technology and best practice remain compelling," Norris wrote in a note Thursday.

Investors appeared unhappy with the deal initially, with Just Eat's stock price sinking 13% by Wednesday's market close. It was slightly higher on Thursday however.

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Dark kitchens: Where does your food delivery really come from?

"We see more limited benefits in a Just Eat Takeaway (JET) merger with Grubhub than between two U.S. players, as international consolidation does little to address U.S. market competitive issues," said Ives.

"Ultimately, this doesn't change what has pressured Grubhub's profitability which has been driven by a cut-throat environment driving discounting and elevated marketing spend."

Norris added that the takeover battle for Grubhub may not be over.

"We do not rule out a hostile counterbid for Grubhub either by Uber or a new suitor," he said. "We also think that this deal merely delays the inevitable longer term consolidation of the US market."

CNBC reported Delivery Hero's interest in merging with Grubhub last week. At the time, a spokesman said the firm was "regularly looking at potential transactions to evaluate new opportunities."