Kraft takes over Cadbury for $18.9b

US giant Kraft won control of Britain’s Cadbury for 18.9 billion dollars, creating a global leader in food and confectionery and ending a bitter war of words, but sparking jobs uncertainty.

The pair announced in a statement that Cadbury management had agreed to a takeover worth 13.8 dollars per share.

Cadbury-Kraft will provide large cost savings and create a global market leader, with annual sales totalling more than 100 million dollars, they added.

“The board of Kraft Foods is pleased to announce the detailed terms of a recommended final offer for Cadbury and the board of Cadbury unanimously recommends Cadbury security holders to accept the terms,” a statement said.

The takeover will end more than 180 years of history for the colourful maker of Dairy Milk chocolate bars and Trident chewing gum.

News of a friendly takeover also marks the end of months of hostilities over the control of Cadbury, which began life as a small grocer’s shop in Birmingham, central England, in 1824.

Kraft’s previous cash-and-shares offer had valued the iconic British firm at about 17.2 billion pounds.

“Kraft Foods believes a combination with Cadbury will provide the potential for meaningful cost savings and revenue synergies from which Cadbury security holders will benefit,” the statement added.

“Kraft Foods believes a combination represents a strong and complementary strategic fit, creating a global confectionery leader with a portfolio of more than 40 confectionery brands each with annual sales in excess of 100 million dollars.”

In reaction to the announcement, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that his government was determined to help save jobs at Cadbury.

“We are determined that the levels of investment that take place in Cadbury in the United Kingdom are maintained and we are determined that, at a time when people are worried about their jobs, that jobs in Cadbury can be secure,” Brown said at a Downing Street press conference.

Cadbury employs 45,000 staff worldwide, including 5,600 staff at eight factories in Britain and Ireland.

There have been fears about British job losses, with trade union Unite warning Kraft would be saddled with huge debts leading them to axe 7,000 posts at Cadbury and 20,000 at the company’s sub-contractors.

Prior to Tuesday, Cadbury had repeatedly rejected the previous offer from Kraft, arguing that it was “derisory” and had undervalued the London-listed firm.

However, the chocolate firm welcomed news of the improved takeover bid on Tuesday.

“We believe the offer represents good value for Cadbury shareholders and are pleased with the commitment that Kraft Foods has made to our heritage, values and people throughout the world,” said Chairman Roger Carr.

“We will now work with the Kraft Foods’ management to ensure the continued success and growth of the business for the benefit of our customers, consumers and employees.”

Cadbury, the world’s second-biggest confectionery company behind Mars, also produces chocolate bar brands Crunchie, Fudge, Flake and Wispa.

Dairy Milk is the most popular chocolate bar in Britain — and the company sells more than 250 million bars every year in 33 countries around the world.

Other top-selling brands include Cadbury Creme Eggs, Halls throat lozenges and Milk Tray chocolate boxes.

Kraft, the world’s second-biggest snacks group after Nestle, makes numerous well-known products including Dairylea cheese, Milka and Toblerone chocolate and Oreo cookies.

The US firm proposes to pay 8.2 dollars in cash and 0.1874 new Kraft Foods shares per Cadbury share. Cadbury shareholders will also receive 16 cents per share in a special dividend if the takeover is successful.

“This recommended offer represents a compelling opportunity for Cadbury shareholders, providing both immediate value certainty and upside potential in the combined company,” said Kraft boss Irene Rosenfeld.

“For Kraft Foods shareholders it transforms the portfolio, accelerates long-term growth and delivers highly attractive returns, while maintaining financial discipline.”

Kraft had made a 16.7-billion-dollar offer for Cadbury back in September 2009.

However, Cadbury, led by American chief executive Todd Stitzer, rejected the bid, saying that it “fundamentally undervalued” the group.

But the US firm has subsequently improved the offer after selling its North American pizza division to Swiss rival Nestle for 3.7 billion dollars.

The Kraft tie-up also faced opposition in Britain with protest from senior ministers over the attempt by a huge American firm to take over a homegrown company.

Meanwhile, US chocolate maker Hershey had also been considering a counter-offer for Cadbury, the Wall Street Journal reported last week, adding that it planned to bid at least 17.9 billion dollars.

Source: AFP

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