If evidence were needed of the new-found steeliness Roger Carr has bought to Cadbury, the chairman's letter to his Kraft counterpart Irene Rosenfield should provide it.
Published: 6:02PM BST 12 Sep 2009
When Carr took the hot seat at Cadbury last year he appeared resolved to toughen things up at the company. He seems to have succeeded.
It is a mettle that will be tested to its limit in the coming months. Kraft's proposal has now been firmly rejected and the US company's softly-softly overtures are likely to turn more aggressive in the coming weeks. The chances of these two remaining friends look increasingly unlikely.
Cadbury and its shareholders have made their feelings clear. Kraft's offer undervalues its rival and more value will have to be put on the table. And the UK company's decision to point to Kraft's "low-growth conglomerate" credentials suggest Carr and his chief executive, Todd Stitzer, will play hard-ball.
Kraft will be forced to go back to the drawing board and put forward a higher offer e_SEnD 850p looks like the minimum shareholders will demand.
Any increase will have to come predominantly in cash rather than shares, which makes it increasingly likely that Kraft will have to go looking for money. The Middle East or Warren Buffett, a Kraft shareholder, look like obvious ports of call.
Kraft's bid for Cadbury is likely to mark just the first flirtation in American Inc's growing infatuation with British plc.
Evidence of America's sweet designs on European, and particularly UK, companies will grow over the coming months.
As developing countries lead the world out of the recession, some US companies are finding they are painfully light when it comes to their exposure to emerging markets.
That was all very well when US consumers were enjoying the boom years and spending their dollars freely, but times have changed.
Despite Barack Obama's efforts to coax the American public into parting with their hard-earned greenbacks, consumer spending remains pitifully light.
Before the economic downturn, US companies could afford to keep their focus within their own borders, placing their faith in the cash-cow on their doorsteps. That approach now appears ill-considered.
Much of Cadbury's attraction to Kraft is the Daily Milk maker's footprint in emerging markets such as India and Latin America, areas where its US rival remains underexposed. That is a pattern that is likely to be repeated.
Kraft will not be the first US company to come shopping in Europe. For those keen to keep British companies in British hands, the bad news is that the UK is likely to be one of the best hunting grounds.
With family ownership still prevalent in continental Europe and countries such as France beating the protectionist drum, Britain's free-market approach and the predominance of public companies makes the UK the best place to shop.
That will lead to takeovers and job-cuts, a politically unpalatable by-product of an active mergers and acquisitions market. Despite the furore, Gordon Brown should stick to his anti-protectionist guns.
The wrong number
What's the difference between the mortgage market and the mobile phone market? It would seem rather a lot where the Office of Fair Trading is concerned.
I understand the OFT is not planning to look into Orange's planned tie-up with T-Mobile in the UK.
The consumer champion plans to wait until the deal closes until looking at the matter, but even then is likely to leave any investigation to the European Commission.
If the EC were likely to take a long, hard look at the tie-up, that might not necessarily be a problem, but all the signs suggest that will not happen because Europe is already littered with example of mobile phone monopolies.
Neither are you going to hear complaints from rival UK operators such as Vodafone or O2. They will welcome less competition as it should allow them to get more aggressive on prices.
Last year, when Lloyds rode to the Government's rescue by saving HBOS from oblivion, much was made e_SEnD and has been made since e_SEnD about the newly merged bank's share of the mortgage and savings markets.
Concerns were raised that Lloyds Banking Group's 30pc share of the mortgage market would put it in too strong a position for consumers' good.
Competition authorities were rightly told to avert their eyes in that case, but there is no equal imperative in the mobile phone market.
Should Orange and T-Mobile be allowed their British marriage, they will take a 37pc share of the mobile market.
That is plainly unacceptable. The companies and the investment bankers will profit, but the consumer will be the one left carrying the can.
If the OFT cannot or will not look at the tie-up, we need the a change to the system.
Keep the bubbly on ice
So, that's it then, it's time to break open the bubbly.
The recession is over. The housing boom is under way again. The mergers market is back in full swing. It's all plain sailing from here.
Except it doesn't quite work like that.
There is little doubt that the economic situation is improving and that the green shoots appear to be more visible than they have been since the crisis hit, but anyone who thinks their job is now safe and that they can finally stop wearing a tie to work should think again.
History, and insolvency practitioners, tell us that the next six months could be among the most difficult yet where it comes to everyday consumers and small businesses. It is in the wake of a recession that small companies most often run into cash-flow problems as bad debts and cash-flow problems come home to roost.
As the banks get to grips with their loan books, it will also be the time when lenders begin making the tough decision about turning off companies' life-support machines.
The M&A market has come back to life, but much of what is going on is opportunistic or market dependent. That means little for the man on the street.
Meanwhile, the housing recovery is being driven by a shortage of supply, likely to be hit when the Government starts to raise interest rates again.
Rates at historic lows are undoubtedly helping homeowners stay put, but those who aren't using the opportunity to put money away for when rates head north will be in for a nasty shock.
Unemployment figures out next week are likely to show joblessness ticking up, which will, in turn, keep consumer spending subdued. The effects will continue to hit small and large business up and down the country.
Better to keep the bubbly on ice for now.
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