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Stitz-up at Merrill Lynch?

Was it a gaffe or was the poor man misquoted? We certainly have two very different accounts of Todd Stitzer’s contribution to a closed conference at Merrill Lynch on 22 September. Maybe it would be better if these sort of briefings just didn’t take place.

According to a Merrill specialist salesman, who jotted down his remarks, Cadbury’s chief executive devoted his entire performance to sharing some thoughts about Kraft’s bid proposal. This was a pretty sensitive subject to pick but, hey, these were serious investors. So he allegedly indicated the possible exit price and the scale of the possible synergies from the deal. The salesman noted that:

Todd admitted that there is some strategic sense in combining the two companies and he doesn’t expect Kraft to walk away, so he said his job is to get as much value as possible.

Stitzer has now clarified his words, most likely at the behest of the Takeover Panel. This statement comes straight out of the circumlocution office and reads: 

Schh…Orangina Schweppes bound for Japan


ORANGINAThere’s an almost palpable sigh of relief in the statement from Blackstone and Lion Capital confirming the two private equity firms have received a “binding offer” from Japan’s Suntory for Orangina Schweppes.

It discloses little beyond Blackstone and Lion saying they will only be able to decide whether to accept the offer “once the necessary social, legal and
regulatory steps will have been completed”.

D.Telekom JV could jump Sprint hurdles


ATHLETICS/Deutsche Telekom is struggling in two of its most important international markets and desperately needs to find a quick fix. Its proposed joint venture with France Telecom is a graceful way to establish a leading position in the UK market. But buying Sprint Nextel in the United States looks far less sensible.

A takeover of its rival would catapult Deutsche Telekom past AT&T and Verizon to U.S. number one position. However, the deal looks a costly way to get its operations there growing again. Talk of a bid for Sprint Nextel by T-Mobile USA — the business Deutsche Telekom acquired when it bought VoiceStream in 2000 — is hardly new.

Goodnight Irene, goodnight, love from Roger

An early draft of Cadbury’s weekend response to the bid approach from Kraft has fallen into my hands.

Dear Irene B Rosenfeld

As you already know, we’ve already spattered your unsolicited takeover proposal with the corporate equivalent of Creme Egg goo, but I thought I’d follow up for the slower members of your board. We really don’t like the idea of being swallowed up by some amorphous conglomerate at a knockdown price simply because nobody wants your extruded Dairylea cheese-style sections anymore.

Kraft will need to sweeten Cadbury offer


CADBURY/Kraft’s cash and stock offer for Cadbury may not have passed muster with the target’s board. But while this is not yet game over, it now looks likely that someone will make a snack of the British confectionery group.

Cadbury’s shares have basically tracked the FTSE for years — despite the efforts of Chief Executive Todd Stitzer to liven up the group’s performance, including demerging its U.S. soft drinks.

Chocs away! Cadbury’s snack will be terribly expensive


It’s been a long, long wait for the shareholders in Cadbury. For a profitless decade since the (adjusted) price first hit six pounds, they have been hoping for someone to come along and take their sweets away on the sort of terms they saw being offered to others.

Now the boys (and girl) from Kraft have decided that putting cheese slices together with Dairy Milk chocolate presents an irresistible opportunity. Cadbury had slimmed down by demerging Dr Pepper, its also-ran US soft drinks business. Investors had heard Todd Stitzer, the chief executive, say he wanted to be a consolidator in FMCG, rather than get eaten, and they had decided that he might be right. There was little in Friday night’s price of 568p for a possible takeover.

Anglo dresses interims up as a defence


    Anglo American hasn’t yet received a formal bid from Xstrata. But the miner’s interim results read very much like a defence document.CHILE-CODELCO/ANGLOAMERICAN
    The highlights alone give a pretty good idea of what chief executive Cynthia Carroll and new chairman John Parker will focus on if Xstrata does eventually pounce.
    Anglo’s case hinges on four things.
    First, that its plan to cut $2 billion of costs by 2011 is ahead of target. Second, that it is getting on top of its $11 billion net debt, and third, that progress is being made in restructuring its problem child Anglo Platinum <AMSJ.J>. Lastly, Anglo acknowledges that it is an objective to reinstate the dividend.
    Added to these elements, lest they appeared to have too defensive a flavour, is the promise of growth, largely through its Minas-Rio iron ore project in Brazil and its Los Bronces copper development.
    Of these, cost savings are a crucial point of contention in the Xstrata debate, with the rival miner’s chief executive Mick Davis confident he can squeeze a further $1 billion out of a combination with Anglo, taking the total to $3 billion.
    Anglo isn’t making any promises beyond those already given but the tone of the language — which includes talk of being ahead on “asset optimisation”, procurement and job reductions — hints that it may be able to find more savings on its own, without handing anything to Xstrata.
    So far the market seems largely happy to let Carroll stick to her plan — highlighting Anglo’s leading position in platinum, diamonds and iron ore alongside its cost cutting success. But investors might ask more searching questions in the event that Xstrata did come back offering a premium.