Kraft wants Cadbury, but it's not dependent on deal

PHILADELPHIA Fri Sep 25, 2009 12:25pm EDT

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - Kraft Foods Inc told employees it would use fiscal restraint in its pursuit of British confectioner Cadbury, and said its success as a company was not dependent on doing a deal.

"This is something we would like to do, not something that we have to do," Kraft Chief Executive Irene Rosenfeld said on Thursday in a town hall meeting with employees in Northfield, Illinois. A transcript of the meeting was filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday.

Earlier this month, Kraft made a $16.44 billion offer to acquire Cadbury but its bid has been rejected as too low.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett, head of Berkshire Hathaway Inc -- Kraft's largest investor -- said Kraft had "a lot to do" to justify that price tag.

Rosenfeld, however, promised Buffett that Kraft would take a disciplined approach in its pursuit of Cadbury.

"We intend to remain disciplined in our actions. And I can assure you we will avoid allowing those animal instincts that Warren Buffett alluded to take over," Rosenfeld told Kraft employees.

Rosenfeld noted that Kraft aims to use a mix of cash and stock to pay for the Cadbury deal, making the strength of its stock a factor in its bid.

"The performance of our stock in the coming weeks will be a key metric that investors of both companies will be following very closely," Rosenfeld said.

Shares of Kraft have fallen about 5.8 percent since it unveiled its bid on September 7. Shares of Kraft fell 4 cents to $26.34 in Friday morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

She outlined the benefits of the deal, saying it would combine two highly complementary companies and benefit revenue- and profit-growth for both.

"It would create a formidable global powerhouse in snacks, confectionery and quick meals, further expand our footprint in developing markets, and expand our presence in growing trade channels like convenience stores and gas stations," Rosenfeld said.

Cadbury on Friday said it did not believe that a deal with Kraft made financial or strategic sense for the British candy company.

(Reporting by Jessica Hall; Editing by Phil Berlowitz)

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