Cadbury halts speculation over takeover stance

Cadbury today sought to dismiss mounting speculation that chief executive Todd Stitzer is softening his stance to a takeover by America’s Kraft Foods.

In a statement to the stock exchange the chocolate maker said: “For the avoidance of doubt Mr Stitzer does not believe that Kraft’s proposal makes strategic or financial sense for Cadbury and his comments should not be interpreted in any other way.

“Cadbury’s position in relation to Kraft’s proposal remains precisely as set out in the letter to Kraft issued on 12 September.”

The statement was issued after discussions with the Takeover Panel. It follows remarks made by Mr Stitzer in an interview with the Wall Street Journal at the beginning of the week when he said he saw some strategic sense in a combination of the two businesses.

The company has stressed he was speaking from an investor perspective and that the comments had been taken out of context.

The pot was further stirred following after Mr Stitzer talked to investors at Bank of America/Merrill Lynch conference on Wednesday. He was cited in a research note distributed by the bank looking at the strategic sense of a deal and potential valuations for Cadbury.

The bank subsequently clarified the note, saying Mr Stitzer’s comments on valuation were only made in the context of comparable transactions in the industry and did not imply a fair value for Cadbury.

Kraft launched a cash and share proposal for Cadbury on 7 September, going public in an attempt to keep the cholatier talking about a deal, which was worth £10.2 billion although Kraft’s share price has subsequently fallen.

Cadbury has dismissed the proposal and asked the Takeover Panel to issue a “put up or shut up” deadline on Kraft that will force the US group to either table a hostile takeover bid or walk away.