DealZone

Is Cadbury too rich for Hershey?

January 14, 2010

While Cadbury shares saw some life on hopes for a rival bid from Hershey — boosted by reporting from the FT that a rival offer was further along than much of the market had assumed — naysaying analysts and pundits have been quick to point out that the financials of a Hershey bid are hard to stomach.

Hershey is only half the size of Cadbury, and a big share issue would dilute the stake of the controlling Hershey Trust, which has been every bit as crucial to defining the company as the kiss. The FT report says Hershey is working on a private equity element with none other than Byron Trott, Warren Buffett’s banker of choice. The idea that Buffett, who is Kraft’s biggest shareholder, could play both sides of a bidding war is, if not new, certainly intriguing, particularly given his apparent distaste for Kraft selling its own shares to keep its bid attractive.

And while Cadbury has repeatedly denied it is looking for a white knight, a deal that would leave its management in place, perhaps in exchange for keeping the Hershey Trust intact, could be attractive enough to consider breaking off a piece of Cadbury to give to a private equity investor to chew on … its gum business, for example.

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