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Business News

Cadbury uses 'outstanding' performance in defence against Kraft

Cadbury re-stated its rejection of the $10bn (£6.1bn) hostile bid from Kraft yesterday and published details of an "outstanding" performance in 2009 that it hopes will bolster its dismissal of the proposal as "derisory".

The UK confectioner has been fighting to retain its independence since the first approach from the US giant in September. With the approach of the early February deadline for shareholders to make up their minds on the offer, Cadbury reported chocolate sales up 7 per cent, gum up 2 per cent and sweets up 5 per cent over the past 12 months.

It also detailed 9 per cent growth across emerging markets, a trend improving throughout the year, alongside improvements in developed markets of 2 per cent for the year as a whole and 9 per cent in the US and Canada in the second half.

Cadbury's management has consistently touted the improvements in the past year as they have fought off the approach by Kraft. So far the "Vision into Action" efficiency programme has boosted the company's operating margin growth by 160 basis points to 13.5 per cent, with improvements across all business units, Cadbury said yesterday. The scheme is on track to deliver its goal of a good mid-teens margin by next year and between 16 and 18 per cent by 2013.

Cadbury is also set to increase its dividend by 10 per cent to 18p and is aiming to boost revenues by 5 to 7 per cent in 2010. Todd Stitzer, the chief executive, said: "Our performance in 2009 was outstanding. We generated good revenue growth despite the weakest economic conditions in 80 years."

Cadbury used the trading statement as further ammunition in its trenchant resistance to Kraft, claiming that since the first approach the UK group's value has risen further thanks to its strong performance. It also re-stated criticism of the share part of the deal as "unappealing" given Kraft's "unattractive business model and poor track record of delivery". Its shares closed up 9.5p at 799p, while Kraft's cash and shares offer was worth 763p yesterday afternoon.

Cadbury's chairman Roger Carr said: "Don't let Kraft steal your company with its derisory offer." The trade union Unite also warned of a threat to 30,000 jobs – 7,000 of them at Cadbury – if the US giant succeeds.