Takeover Panel sets Cadbury clock ticking for Kraft

September 30, 2009

KRAFT-CADBURY/So Cadbury has succeeded in convincing the UK’s Takeover Panel — the City of London body which polices M&A — to slap a “put up or shut up” order on Kraft.

Kraft now has until Nov. 9 to decide whether to make a formal offer for the British confectionery group. If it decides to walk away, it is not allowed back for six months.

Cadbury shares are still trading above the price of Kraft’s informal stock and cash offer. At just over 8 pounds per share, the current price is some 10 percent above the indicative offer, which is now worth just 7.20 pounds. But shareholders in Cadbury — which is a household favourite in the UK — aren’t being that ambitious in their expectations for an improved offer. The shares are trading at nowhere near the multiples which were initially bandied about after Kraft’s approach became public.

And despite noises about Kraft finding it difficult to raise the money it needs for the 11 billion pound bid — of which some 4.1 billion pounds would be in cash — bankers seem to think there won’t be any problem getting lenders to make the necessary loans.

The real question is how far Kraft shareholders are willing to let CEO Irene Rosenfeld stretch to get her hands on Cadbury’s famous chocolate and chewing gum brands.  Kraft stock fell another 1 percent following the Takeover Panel ruling, having dropped around $2 from above $19 to $17.6 since it went public with its approach to Cadbury.

Cadbury, which has rejected the approach, will be hoping that based on the performance of Kraft shares, Rosenfeld will be kept on a fairly tight leash.

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