September 17, 2009 / 2:47 PM / 8 years ago

Hershey Trust consults Buffett banker on Cadbury-WSJ

CHICAGO, Sept 17 (Reuters) - The trust that holds voting control of candy maker Hershey Co (HSY.N) has hired Warren Buffett’s favorite banker to advise it on a possible bid for British chocolatier Cadbury, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

Such a bid would counter an offer made by Kraft Foods Inc KFT.N, of which Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc (BRKa.N) is the largest shareholder.

The Journal, citing people familiar with the matter, said that the Trust hired former Goldman Sachs & Co banker Byron Trott, as well as boutique banking firm Watch Hill Partners, to advise on a possible bid for Cadbury.

Trott has often been Buffett’s favorite banker, though the story gave no indication if Buffett would be involved in a possible bid by Hershey or the Trust for Cadbury.

Representatives of the Hershey Trust, Hershey Co and Watch Hill declined to comment on the story, while Trott could not be reached.

A representative for Buffett was not immediately available for comment.

Cadbury was put in play last week when Kraft, the world’s second-largest food company, disclosed it had proposed a cash and stock offer for the company. The bid was valued at about $16 billion based on Kraft’s closing price of $26.27 on Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange.

Cadbury has rebuffed the bid as too low.

On Wednesday, Buffett told CNBC that Kraft had “a lot to do” to justify the price offered for Cadbury.

Buffett also said investors undervalued Kraft’s stock, so it was using a weak currency to pay full value for Cadbury.

But analysts have been skeptical that an offer would come from Hershey because any bid using its stock would run the risk of diluting the trust’s stake to the point that it would lose control over the company.

The trust maintains that Pennsylvania law requires it to maintain control of Hershey.

Still, Buffett has shown an interest in confections in the past, with Berkshire last year funding $6.5 billion toward Mars Inc’s purchase of Wm. Wrigley Jr Co. Berkshire also owns See’s Candies, whose confections Buffett munches at the annual shareholder meetings of Omaha, Nebraska-based Berkshire. (Reporting by Brad Dorfman in Chicago, Dan Wilchins in New York and Paritosh Bansal in New York, editing by Matthew Lewis)

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