News briefs: Cocoa, Cadbury and Sweet China

By Charlotte Eyre

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Stock Stock market Cadbury

In financial news this week, cocoa prices go up yet again, Cadbury
reveals more de-merger plans, and Sweet China is allowed to return
to the London stock market.

Cocoa prices continue to rise The daily price for cocoa hit record highs on both the London and the New York stock markets in February, the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) said in its monthly review.

By the end of the month, prices in London reached £1,441 per tonne, their highest level for five years, while in New York prices surged to $2,811 per tonne, the highest level for 28 years, the ICCO said.

The organisation attributed the increase to investors pouring money into the commodity sector, a trend that in general is defying the global economic slowdown.

However, the ICCO also questioned whether the high prices are here to stay, as crops this season has increased substantially compared to the year before.

Global cocoa bean production in creased 10 per cent to 3,713,000 tonnes in the 2007/2008 cocoa year, with Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana, the two main growing regions, showing "a very strong start" this year, the ICCO said.

World cocoa stocks should therefore " be considered large" , and the supply deficit is a lot smaller than in previous months, the organisation added.

Cadbury updates de-merger proposals Cadbury yesterday released more information about the planned de-merger of its US beverage arm, announcing how shares in the company will be distributed once it is divided into two.

If the de-merger is approved, ordinary shareholders will receive 64 ordinary shares in the Cadbury confectionery company, and 12 shares of common stock in the US beverage firm, instead of 100 Cadbury Schweppes shares, the company said.

The company also announced the appointment of four additional board directors for the US-based Dr Pepper Snapple Group (DPSG), adding to the hiring of the new chairman Wayne Sanders, first announced last month.

Details about the de-merger have slowly been forthcoming since the move was first announced in June last year, after the credit crunch ruled out selling the beverage arm.

Rumours over the financial difficulty of the deal have persisted, as earlier this month the Bear Stearns bank warned investors of weakening debt markets.

However, Cadbury later insisted the deal is going ahead, stating it has signed new credit agreements with five banks - JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS.

The new Cadbury confectionery business will then have net debt of £1.65bn after the payment of the group's final dividend, the company said.

Sweet China re-listed on stock exchange Confectionery company Sweet China today returns to the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) after a deal to acquire Essential Box Confectionery fell through in 2005, Thompson Financial yesterday reported.

According to AIM rules, a transaction must be concluded within a year of the deal agreement.

Sweet China failed to complete the necessary negotiations three years ago because of what it called "structural issues", the news service said.

The company is now, however, in a position to complete the £6m deal, and the business is expected to have a market value of around £7m once it floats on the market.

The deal will allow the firm to start selling Essential Box Confectionery brands in mainland China, the firm said.

Previously, Sweet China had focused its areas of distribution on export markets.

Essential Box Confectionery produces products such a Turkish delight and coconut ice under the Lings brand, and a range of children's confectionery through CandyCraft.

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