Don't let Kraft steal Cadbury, shareholders urged

Dairy Milk firm Cadbury set out its case for independence today as it urged shareholders not to let US giant Kraft "steal your company".

The chocolate company's latest response to Kraft was contained in a new defence document setting out details of Cadbury's "outstanding" trading in 2009 and forecasting sales growth of up to 7 per cent this year.

Shareholders have until 2 February to accept Kraft's takeover offer, which values the the UK firm at around £10.5 billion.

Cadbury chairman Roger Carr said Kraft's proposal was "even more unattractive" than it was when it made its formal offer in December.

He added: "Our 2009 performance is ahead of our previously upgraded expectations and we have excellent momentum going into 2010."

Mr Carr added that Kraft's offer price was significantly below comparable transactions in the sector and said the shares element of the proposal exposed shareholders to the US firm's "low growth" business model.

"Don't let Kraft steal your company with its derisory offer," he told shareholders.

Cadbury's last defence document saw it raise long-term performance targets and issue higher profit margins guidance.

Chief executive Todd Stitzer said today that the company's value as a stand-alone company had been boosted by its performance over the second half of the year, with revenues up 6 per cent in the period and by 5 per cent over the whole of 2009.

He said: "Our performance in 2009 was outstanding. We generated good revenue growth despite the weakest economic conditions in 80 years."

The company added that it expected growth of 10% in its full-year dividend payment to shareholders.

Looking ahead, Mr Stitzer said the company was targeting revenue growth of between 5 per cent and 7 per cent in 2010, driven by new products and marketing investment.

Kraft has until next Tuesday to decide whether to raise its bid - currently at 763p a share - with an offer of more than 800p thought to have more of a chance of enticing Cadbury shareholders.

But the Dairylea and Toblerone firm would need the support of Warren Buffett, whose Omaha-based Berkshire Hathaway investment vehicle owns almost 10 per cent of Kraft, to up its offer.

Mr Buffett has already warned Kraft not to overpay for Cadbury and last week said shareholders should not be asked to write a "blank cheque" by issuing 370 million new Kraft shares to finance the bid.