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Cadbury boss calls Kraft offer derisory

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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Cadbury boss to investors: "Kraft is trying to buy Cadbury on the cheap"
  • Kraft made $16.5 billion offer for UK confectionary group in November
  • Board has rejected offer; revises growth targets upwards
  • CEO says Cadbury has received "indications of interest from third parties"

London, England (CNN) -- The chairman of Cadbury has urged shareholders to reject a $16.5 billion takeover offer from Kraft and accused the American food company of trying to buy the British confectionary group "on the cheap."

Cadbury's board unanimously rejected Kraft's 717p-a-share bid last month. In a statement on Monday, the group's chairman, Roger Carr, urged investors to back Cadbury's continuing independence and set upwardly revised growth targets for the next four years.

"Kraft is trying to buy Cadbury on the cheap to provide much needed growth to their unattractive low-growth conglomerate business model," Carr said. "Don't let Kraft steal your company with its derisory offer."

Upgrading its targets for the period to 2013, Cadbury said it expected to deliver revenue growth of 5-7 percent per annum over the next four years and said the company would aim for double-digit growth in dividends per share from 2010 onwards.

The group is showing strong momentum in emerging markets such as India, Middle East and Africa and South America, strengthening growth in the U.S. and robust growth in the UK, it said.

"Cadbury is an exceptional business worth much more than the offer put forward by Kraft. It is clear to all that Cadbury is a particularly attractive asset in the sector with iconic brands, a sharp category focus and an enviable geographic footprint," said Carr.

Cadbury, which has dominated the British chocolate market for decades with brands such as Dairy Milk, Creme Egg and Flake, has also been linked with a possible merger with American chocolate giant Hershey.

Cadbury made no mention of possible third-party interest in its statement, but Stitzler told reporters Monday that the company had received "indications of interest... with respect of possible business combination transactions."

Kraft's attempted takeover of Cadbury has also been criticized by British trade unions who have also called on the UK government and the EU to block the bid.

Unite, the UK's largest union which is due to launch a "Keep Cadbury Independent" on Tuesday, said in a statement Friday that a merger would destabilize the company and hit future returns to shareholders.

"Cadbury has a great record of generating good returns for shareholders and that success has also meant good, secure work for thousands. We appeal to shareholders not to put this at risk by entertaining this Kraft bid," said Jennie Formby, Unite's national officer for the food industry.