Simon says no thank you to Kraft cheese slices

September 21, 2009

It’s not often that you hear an investment banker urging shareholders to consider their duty, unless it’s their duty to vote for his latest money-spinning deal. But Simon Robertson is not your average investment banker, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised to see him writing to the FT criticising Kraft’s attempt to buy Cadbury.

Formerly of Kleinwort Benson and Goldman Sachs, Robertson’s list of current directorships makes you want to lie down somewhere quiet: HSBC, Berry Brothers & Rudd, the Royal Opera House, the Eden Project, the Royal Academy Trust – oh, and chairman of Rolls-Royce.

Perhaps it’s the aero-engine maker that provides the clue for his outburst. Like Cadbury, it’s part commercial investment, part national treasure. Both companies are British, world-class and nothing to do with financial services.

Indeed, you need change only a single word in his letter to see what he means: “Do shareholders really believe it is their long-term interests to exchange their investment in a dynamic global British business for a mixture of cash and shares in a US (food) conglomerate for short-term gain?”

Unfortunately for Cadbury, the answer may be Yes. The British shareholders to whom Robertson is appealing were thin on the register before Kraft pounced, and will be thinner now, as some will have cheese-sliced their holding. What will the other holders know or care of Bournville and Quaker paternalism?

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