Kraft Continues Cadbury Quest

Most retailers predict merger would have little effect on c-store channel

Published in CSP Daily News

By  Abbey Lewis, Executive Editor

NORTHFIELD, Ill. -- Kraft Foods' bid this week to purchase Cadbury PLC for $16.7 billion is more than an effort to grow the company. It is, instead, the "next step" in a turnaround plan Kraft has been working on for more than two years.

"We are now ready to look ahead and take the next step," Kraft Foods' chief executive Irene Rosenfeld said at an investment conference in Boston held by Barclays Capital on Wednesday. "Cadbury would be a terrific next step."

Because Cadbury PLC rejected the company's initial bid, some analysts expect the food giant, which has said [image-nocss] it intends to continue to pursue Cadbury, to raise its offer. If the candymaker rejects a second offer, some observers speculate Kraft will attempt a hostile takeover, in which Kraft would take its offer directly to Cadbury shareholders, according to a report by The Chicago Tribune.

In a Monday interview with The Wall Street Journal, Rosenfeld said she will work toward "constructive conversation" with Cadbury, but that Kraft will remain a disciplined buyer. Rosenfeld said her company has made a "full and fair" proposal.

Kraft's Rosenfeld-initiated, three-year turnaround plan is designed to increase the company's sales and profits, as well as encourage product innovation. According to Rosenfeld, the "turnaround strategies are delivering sustainable, profitable growth."

Convenience retailers contacted were reluctant to go on the record with CSP Daily News regarding the possible acquisition, indicating that they knew little of the deal and could not comment until they learned more. In a Kraft/CSP Daily News Poll conducted yesterday, more than half of respondents (55%) said the change in ownership will likely have no effect on the convenience store channel at all. Only 13% of the 106 polled think it will help the industry, while 32% think it will hurt.

Northfield, Ill.-based Kraft Foods makes American brands such as Kraft cheeses, dinners and dressings, Maxwell House coffees and Oscar Mayer meats, as well as global brands such as Oreo and LU biscuits, Philadelphia cream cheese, Jacobs and Carte Noire coffees, Tang powdered beverages and Milka, Cote d'Or, Lacta and Toblerone chocolates. It is the world's second-largest food company with annual revenues of $42 billion.

Cadbury PLC is a leading global confectionery company located in Uxbridge, England, with a portfolio that includes chocolate, gum and candy brands, including Trident, Dentyne and Halls.