The sale of the Hershey Foods business in the US has been in the news on almost a daily basis over the last few weeks, with the company's employees and supporters fighting to keep the business in American hands and away from potential buyers such as Nestle or Cadbury.
But an interview with the president of the Hershey Trust, the non-profit organisation which owns the majority of the shares in Hershey, has revealed that the much talked-about sale is by no means a foregone conclusion and the Trust has not yet decided whether or not it will put the business on the market.
Richard C. Vowler, president and chief executive officer of the Hershey Trust, told the Associated Press that there were currently no offers on the table, and that no decision on the sale had as yet been taken, although he confirmed that Hershey executives had been asked to seek bids for the confectionery group.
He also elaborated on the Trust's decision to seek buyers for the business. The Trust controls 312 per cent of the shares in Hershey, and around half of the Trust's assets are invested in the company. If the business were to falter at any stage, this could have a significant effect on the Trust's assets, but Vowler told AP that the sale of the business was just one option the Trust was pursuing to ensure a safer future for its investments.
He also stressed that the Trust was not deaf to the protests from the people of Hershey, Pennsylvania, where the company is based. He said the reaction had been expected, but that the sale of the business, if it goes ahead, would only be after the Trust was convinced that the new owners would ensure the continued benefits to the local community.
Tomorrow is an important day for Hershey, with the first hearing of its appeal against the recent injunction on the sale of the business. The Pennsylvania Attorney General Mike Fisher has argued that the sale of the business would cause irreparable damage to the local community and has forced the company to delay the sale until a full assessment of this impact can be carried out.
Vowler's statement that the sale would only be concluded if these community values were maintained will do little to appease Fisher's fears.