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TAKING THE BISCUIT

CADBURY last night dismissed a hostile &pound;9.8bn takeover offer from the world&rsquo;s second largest food company Kraft, accusing it of &ldquo;irritating&rdquo; its shareholders by making a low-ball tactical bid.<br /><br />Kraft&rsquo;s hostile offer, which landed just hours before a deadline set by the City&rsquo;s Takeover Panel, was made on the same terms as first mooted back in September when it made an indicative offer. <br /><br />Since then, Kraft&rsquo;s share price has fallen, as has the US dollar, taking the value of its cash and shares bid for Cadbury down from 745p a share to 717p a share. Kraft is offering 300p in cash and 0.2589 of its shares for each Cadbury share.<br /><br />Speaking to City A.M. last night, Cadbury chairman Roger Carr said: &ldquo;They had trailed the fact that they would play a long game at a low ball level but even so we are surprised to see a reduction in the value of the bid.&rdquo;<br /><br />&ldquo;Shareholders are finding this pretty irritating,&rdquo; added Carr, who claims support from a large group of the company&rsquo;s institutional shareholders as well as many of the hedge fund holders. &ldquo;This does not move the position forward at all.&rdquo;<br /><br />Carr&rsquo;s position received backing in parts of the City. Panmure Gordon analyst Graham Jones said: &ldquo;People aren&rsquo;t impressed with Kraft&rsquo;s strategy or hardball tactics. It&rsquo;s a waste of time and people are getting tired of it.&rdquo;<br /><br />But Kraft&rsquo;s chairman and chief executive Irene Rosenfeld remains adamant about not overpaying.<br /><br />She said: &ldquo;We believe that our proposal offers the best immediate and long-term value for Cadbury&rsquo;s shareholders and for the company itself compared with any other option currently available.&rdquo;<br /><br />So far Cadbury has not attracted a rival bid, but as Carr pointed out: &ldquo;It would be unusual for anybody to emerge before Kraft put its price on the table... We would neither encourage nor discourage anybody that wants to show an interest.&rdquo;<br /><br />Carr says he has tried hard to ensure that the Kraft bid has not distracted Cadbury management unduly. <br /><br />&ldquo;We have made sure that those who are driving the business forward continue to engage with that and are not moved by the external noise.&rdquo;<br />