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Hershey will not bid for Cadbury

By Jess Halliday , 22-Jan-2010

Kraft will not face competition from Hershey to buy UK confectionery company Cadbury, it is confirmed today. But a major Kraft shareholder has come out in opposition to this week’s raised bid.

Kraft upped its bid for Cadbury on Tuesday morning to 840p per share and agreed to pay a 10p per share dividend. The deal has a total value of £11.7bn and is an improvement on the original bid of £10.2bn or 745p per share in September 2009.

Cadbury has recommended that shareholders accept the new offer.

Today Hershey formally ruled itself out of the competition to buy to UK’s best-loved chocolate brand. Under Takeover Panel rules Hershey had until Monday to make an offer exceeding that of Kraft; in its statement today it said it does not plan to make an offer, but reserves the right to make one later if, within six months, circumstances were to change.

An example of such a change in circumstances would be if Kraft’s offer were declared “unconditional”.

Italian chocolate maker Ferrero is thought to be no longer interested in Cadbury, but has not made a formal statement. Nestle declared it would not make a bid after buying Kraft’s frozen pizza business for $3.7bn; the net proceeds of this deal are to be used by Kraft to help fund its Cadbury acquisition.

Controversy

Meanwhile, Warren Buffett, multibillionaire chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and, with 9.4 per cent, Kraft’s biggest shareholder, has slammed the raised bid. He said he does not have the power to stop it, but would vote ‘no’ if he had the chance.

The planned takeover is schedules for debate by the UK government. At the top of the agenda are concerns about safeguarding jobs. Kraft has not announced any job cuts, but it has said it will spend $1.3 billion on restructuring.

The Fairtrade Foundation has also raised fears that Kraft with abandon Cadbury’s ethical business strategy. It has started urgent talks with Cadbury management to find out if the pledge to buy cocoa beans from farmer-owned cooperatives will still stand, according to The Guardian newspaper.

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