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Why Keynsham loves Kraft

Dave Harvey | 16:34 UK time, Monday, 4 January 2010

Chocolate wars
There have been protests in Birmingham.
Marches in Westminster.
Outside the Cheltenham HQ of Kraft UK on New Year's day, "John Bull" delivered a message to the Americans: Hands off our National Icon.

Ray Egan, aka John Bull, outside Kraft UK's Cheltenham HQ. Ray Egan, or 'John Bull', as he calls himself, is 71 and yet spent January 1st hanging union jack bunting outside Kraft's regency offices. "Cadbury's is a bastion of Britishness", he declared.

So why does Keynsham love Kraft, alone in the UK?

Most obviously, of course, because the US food giant has pledged to keep the town's famous chocolate factory open. Cadbury's will close the plant this year, unless the Kraft bid is successful.

"I do believe Kraft," Amoree Radford tells me. Amoree has run the "Save Cadbury's" campaign in Keynsham since mid 2007, when the closure plans were announced. She is wary of big corporates, but persuaded by Kraft.

cadbury_070909_amoree-use-t.jpg "I do really think that they want to put back into Great Britain, and I think that is an absolutely prime location to carry on making chocolate for the British people."

So as the deadline for Cadbury's shareholders approaches to accept or reject the £10bn offer from Kraft, Keynsham alone is rooting for the Americans.

But as you talk to people in the town you sense there's something else at play too. Psychology, a bit of revenge even. First, revenge on the Cadbury board, who many in Keynsham now despise.

Any notion of the firm's Quaker roots are long gone here. When the management decided to pack up and send the work to Poland, appeals to charity and community values fell on deaf ears. They would love nothing more than to see the board lose a fight - and the individuals lose their jobs.

And it's even more complicated for the workers. Big "enhanced redundancy" deals are on the table for staff when the factory closes in the Autumn. Anyone who steps out of line and criticises the management, let alone speaks in favour of the hostile bid, will lose out.

Creme Egg production at Keynsham

Weirdest of all is the union position. Unite represents workers in both Keynsham and Bournville. While Kraft may be the best bet for the Somerset staff, Unite's national office has backed the UK Cadbury board to the hilt, launching this massive online campaign and organising marches. All of which means I can no longer even talk to the Unite people here, because they must toe the national "We Love Cadburys" line.

City sources tell me that Tuesday, Jan 5 won't be the final deadline. Kraft have told investors to sell or stick by then, but it's likely they will announce a postponement. There's talk of Kraft raising the bid, of Hershey, or even Nestle, entering the fray.

But as Danny Cox of Hargreaves Lansdown told me, "the price isn't right yet. But it looks likely Cadbury's will sell to someone. The only question is to who - and when."

Update 09:07
The dance continues. As predicted, Kraft have circled another date in our diaries, 16 January. The Americans promise details of a new revised offer to Cadbury shareholders by then. It will include more cash - up by 60p a share from the £3 already on the table. The remainder is in shares in the new Kraft / Cadbury business, worth in today's money about £7.40. Full details here.
And strike that line about Nestle - they were more interested in a frozen pizza from Kraft than a Creme Egg from Keynsham. Pah, what taste!



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