Cadbury set for last stand against Kraft

CADBURY will today mount a last-ditch defence against the hostile bid from American conglomerate Kraft as it reveals strong numbers for 2009.

Chief executive Todd Stitzer is expected to tell shareholders that a combination of cost-cutting and robust sales have propelled the company in line with the ambitious expectations outlined in December. In a conference call, he will compare Cadbury’s growth prospects with those of Kraft, which he will portray as a sluggish group bereft of ideas.

According to a survey of analysts by Bloomberg, the maker of Dairy Milk will say sales rose by 12 per cent to £6bn last year as underlying profit rose 26 per cent to £806m. Stitzer and chairman Roger Carr will hope the bullish update, to be followed by more detailed figures after the close of business on Thursday, will persuade shareholders the company is worth at least 800p a share.

Kraft has until 19 January to decide whether to raise its cash and shares bid, which currently values Cadbury at 769p a share, or £10.5bn. Ferrero, which is thought to have lined up £2.8bn of financing, and Hershey are likely to wait until then if they are still considering entering the fray.

Shares in Cadbury closed 3p up at 781p yesterday, above Kraft’s bid level.