Doubts cast over Cadbury beverage spin-off

By staff reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Cadbury Finance Stock market Debt

Weakening debt markets may force Cadbury to put the de-merger of
its US beverage arm on hold, an investment bank predicted last

The firm first revealed its de-merger plans in June last year, after deciding that original plans to sell the £6bn unit would be too expensive.

However, analysts at Bear Stearns now predict that there is at least a 50/50 risk that the de-merger will have to be put on hold due to the current financial climate, the analysts said.

"The credit crunch could take its toll on Cadbury's spin-off ambitions," the bank said in a note to investors.

The analysts also cut its valuation of the drinks business from £6bn to £5.4bn.

A Cadbury spokesperson refused to talk to about the rumours, stating that the company does not comment on such reports as a rule.

Nevertheless, the rumours are unlikely to do much good for Cadbury's reputation or indeed its share price - which had already fallen nine pence, or 1.6 per cent, by the end of trading last Friday.

Cadbury has already had to deal with speculations that its finances are in trouble, as the company last month told shareholders it had decided against returning capital to them from the float of the beverage business, in order to improve its credit rating.

The firm also reported a 2 per cent fall in profits for the year 2007.

Last December, active investor Nelson Peltz called for Cadbury to make a raft of improvements to its operations, threatening to take matters out of management's hands if the requests are not met.

His investment group Trian said at the time it supported the de-merger proposals, but viewed the changes as "too little improvement over too long a time."

In a letter sent to the firm, Trian called for Cadbury to make a raft of improvements to its operations, including selling off some beverage assets, as well as including setting near-term margin targets, increasing long-term margin goals and adding more board members.

The group said that the confectionery company must amend its proposals to improve margins, "to levels closer to what most food companies achieve," as well as improve the value of its shares.

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