Kraft silent on pension freeze impact for Cadbury

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Kraft silent on pension freeze impact for Cadbury

Related tags Stock market Cadbury

Kraft has announced that it will begin to end pension increases for current and non-union hourly employees from year end 2019 but the US food group did not provide any clues in regulatory filings as to the future of the 100-year-old Cadbury pension fund.

The decision will lead to an annual saving of $40m (€29.4m) for Kraft, who announced annual profits of around $3bn (€2.2bn) on Tuesday.

The Illinois-based company said the estimated pension contributions did not include "anticipated contributions for our newly acquired Cadbury business",​ and it said it would include this figure in future filings.

The pension move of the US food conglomerate raises concerns over the state of Cadbury's £481m (€553m) pension deficit with pension trustees at the UK confectionery company seeking assurances from early on that the retirement scheme would not be threatened by the takeover by Kraft.

Last month, the chairman of the Cadbury pension trustees, John Hatchett, called on Kraft to reveal how it was going to repair the shortfall in the scheme. In December last year, the Cadbury Pension Fund signed up with the Pension Insurance Corporation (PIC) to insure its pension liabilities.

Emerging markets

Sales at the US food conglomerate equated to $11.03bn (€8.13m) in the last quarter of 2009, below the $11.07bn (€8.16bn) expected by analysts. Geographically, Kraft’s organic revenue fell by 2.7 per cent in North America, 0.3 per cent in Europe but rose by 10.4 per cent in developing markets, where Cadbury is also strong.

The company booked a profit of $710m in the fourth quarter, up from $178m a year earlier, although that quarter was heavily impacted by one-off restructuring charges.

Having received more than 90 per cent of acceptances from Cadbury shareholders, Kraft has begun a compulsory acquisition of the remaining shares it does not own with Cadbury’s shares to be delisted from the London Stock Exchange by 8 March.

Hershey look to buy

Meanwhile, David West, the CEO of US chocolate manufacturer Hershey, a company that had been seen as a potential rival to Kraft for Cadbury, said that he sees opportunities to expand outside the US through acquisitions.

Speaking at the Consumer Analyst Group of New York conference in Florida on Tuesday he said that Hershey is not focused on deals of a particular size and is open to joint ventures as well.

West said the proposed acquisition strategy has the support of its board and he revealed that emerging markets are of interest in this respect.

The company would be open to categories that are "adjacent" to the confectionery business if they are seen as complementing the company’s brands and existing research and technology, he added.

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