Cadbury PLC said Monday it plans to publish its formal response to a 9.8 billion pound ($16.3 billion) hostile takeover offer from Kraft Foods Inc. on Dec. 14.
Kraft, the maker of Oreo cookies, Nabisco crackers and its namesake cheese, took the offer straight to shareholders of the British candy company on Friday. In doing so, it bypassed the Cadbury board, which had already rejected an almost identical offer last month as "derisory."
London-based Cadbury noted that it is prohibited under U.S. securities law from making any further statement until it issues its formal response, which it said will be released alongside its previously scheduled trading update next Monday.
Kraft's move to take the offer, which includes 300 pence in cash and 0.2589 new Kraft shares for each Cadbury share, directly to shareholders started the clock on a series of regulatory deadlines to get the majority support it needs.
It may also flush out rival bids and gives the U.S. company some wiggle room to increase its own offer should competition emerge.
Cadbury, the maker of Dairy Milk chocolate and Dentyne gum, is an attractive acquisition. As one of the world's largest confectionary companies, it has strong international reach with a key presence in emerging markets.
U.S. chocolate maker The Hershey Co. and Italy's Ferrero International SA have said they are considering an offer, but have not yet shown their hand. Analysts have also suggested that Nestle SA may be interested, although the Swiss company has made no comment.
Bidders face some strong opposition to the potential loss of the 195-year-old company's independence. At least one member of Cadbury's founding family has spoken out against it and the country's leading labor union is yet to be appeased about potential job losses.
Kraft has said it wants to get the majority shareholder votes by Jan. 5, but it can take until February to complete the process under regulations.
Shares in Cadbury, which have shot up in recent weeks on the prospect of a bidding war, were down 0.6 percent at 790 pence on Monday.