LONDON (Reuters) –
Cadbury's CEO Todd Stitzer said on Friday he did not believe that Kraft's multi-billion pound bid for Cadbury made strategic or financial sense as he looked to clarify previously reported remarks.
"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," a Cadbury statement said.
Cadbury added that commentary on this issue has misconstrued Stitzer's remarks to imply a softening of his view regarding a combination between Kraft and Cadbury, as the two sides await a ruling from Britain's Takeover Panel on the timing of a bid.
Stitzer talked to investors at a Bank of America/Merrill Lynch conference on Wednesday and was cited in a note distributed by the bank as saying there was some strategic sense in combining with Kraft and talking of potential valuations for Cadbury.
The bank later moved to clarify Stitzer's remarks saying his comments on valuation were only made in the context of comparable transactions in the industry and did not imply a fair value for the business, while Cadbury had contact with the panel on the Wednesday with regard to some of Stitzer's remarks.
The panel is still considering how long it will allow Kraft to come up with a formal bid, and Stitzer's comments have prompted it to look closely at what he said at the investor conference, sources close to the situation said.
The panel considers all comments made by companies on a selective basis in a bid situation, and this is likely to have delayed its decision after Cadbury went to the panel on Monday to ask it to send Kraft a "put up or shut up" request.
The bank note said Stitzer seemed to admit that a 15 times EBITDA multiple would be a fair price for Cadbury which equates to 900 pence compared with to the original value of Kraft's bid at 745p, but later the bank said the reference was in relation to comparable transactions and did not imply fair value.
The author of the note - U.S. consumer sales specialist Simon Archer - is still working at the bank.
Kraft CEO Irene Rosenfeld declined to comment on Stitzer's latest remarks and the potential impact on the panel ruling during a discussion on world hunger in New York.
She told employees on Thursday at the group's headquarters in Northfield, Illinois, the Cadbury deal was something the group would like to do and not something it had to do.
Kraft launched its cash and share deal for Cadbury on September 7 which was promptly rejected. Later Cadbury's Chairman Roger Carr said it was an "unappealing prospect" being absorbed into Kraft's "low growth conglomerate business."
The bid was valued at 10.2 billion pounds ($16.31 billion), but the fall in Kraft share price currently puts the value of the bid at 728 pence or 10 billion pounds compared with Cadbury's share price closing up 0.7 percent at 800-1/2p.
Kraft shares were up 0.3 percent at $26.46 by 1555 GMT. (Reporting by David Jones; editing by Sitaraman Shankar and David Cowell)