Nestle Makes $11.5-b Bid For Hershey Foods

Washington, Aug 26: | Updated: Aug 27 2002, 05:30am hrs
Swiss food giant Nestle SA is offering about $11.5 billion to acquire US rival Hershey Foods Corp, USA Today reported on Monday.

Citing sources familiar with the offer, the newspaper said Nestle presented a preliminary bid of $82 to $85 a share, after senior executives toured Hershey factories twice last week and reviewed the candymakers financial data.

Sources close to the situation confirmed to Reuters that Nestle, along with several other companies had toured the Hershey manufacturing facilities and started reviewing the companies Financial records in recent weeks.

However, these sources said any bid for Hershey at this point is preliminary and negotiations could fall apart at any time.

Both Nestle and Kraft Foods Inc. have expressed serious interest in bidding for Hersey, so far, sources said.

Hershey Foods stock, which traded at $ 62.50 per share just before news of a possible sale emerged last month, closed on Friday at $75.03, up 24 cents, on the New York Stock Exchange.

Nestle Declines Comment Swiss food and drinks giant Nestle declined to comment on reports that it has offered around $ 11.5 billion to buy US candymaker Hershey Foods.

Nestle does not comment on market fantasies, said spokesman Francois-Xavier Perroud.

USA Today earlier reported that Nestle had made a preliminary bid of $ 82 to 85 per share for the Pennsylvania-based company, which closed Friday at $ 75.03.

The Hershey Trust Co. last month announced that it had ordered Hershey Foods executives to seek bids on its controlling stake in the candymaker.

The trust, which owns 77 per cent of the voting shares, said it was looking to diversify its assets to protect its investment. About half of the trusts assets are invested in the candymakers stock and board members say the trust - which benefits the 93-year-old Milton Hershey School for disadvantaged children - could be hurt if the companys finances falter.

Nestle, Kraft Foods and Cadbury Schweppes are seen as possible buyers. In early trading in Zurich, Nestle shares were down 1.7 per cent at 325 Swiss francs ($214).