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Archives for February 2010

Bristol or Borneo? How are Biofuel planning applications decided?

Dave Harvey | 16:44 UK time, Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Update on Thursday: You can read more about the rejection here or I explain to David Garmston on Points West here what prompted the rejection.

Councillors on the North Bristol Planning committee face a busy Wednesday. A new house is being built in Sneyd Park, and they want to knock down some 'non-listed structures'. Bristol Zoo have a standard renewal request for overflow parking on The Downs. Oh, and then there's Borneo's orangutans.

Palm Oil Production Factory in South East Asia
Yes, a rather unusual application for a new power station in Avonmouth has raised a massive debate covering the future of the Earth's rainforests and the protection of primates.

The officers' report for the committee today notes there have been 1,121 letters from the public, two of which are in favour.

It's hugely complicated, and hugely fascinating. New technology that might bring us genuinely green electricity, or the latest piece of 'greenwash' from the bio-fuel industry.

If you're new to the argument, read all about it here on a previous blog post.

But today's question is this. Should councillors, pardon the pun, give a monkey's for orangutans?

Council officers clearly don't think so, though their report puts it far more delicately. They've recommended approval of the plans. Here's why.

First, because this is a planning committee, not a climate change debate. Officers have exhaustively trawled the local government literature, and they conclude:

"... direct planning guidance for this type of development is provided within PPS22: Renewable Energy and its companion guide, PPS22, Planning for Renewable Energy, and advises that the production of the fuel source itself does not fall within the remit of the Local Planning Authority decision-making process.".

In other words, councillors must only decide if replacing this industrial relic with a new power station burning oil from palm trees or jatropha plants will spoil Avonmouth. As you can see, the site is not exactly a beauty spot at the moment.

The Avonmouth site proposed for the new Biofuel Power Station

"But but but but!" I can hear those 1,119 objectors cry, led by the Leader of the City Council herself, Barbara Janke. She wrote recently to Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband:

"There is a strong danger to biodiversity, as well as the knock-on effect of taking land out of food production and climate change implications of processing the fuels and shipping them across the globe."

Bristol is trying to win "Green Capital" status. The city is home to any number of ecological organisations, from the Soil Association to Sustrans and beyond. If this bio-technology is not sustainable, how can the city allow it on its own doorstep?

Officers, in the cool world of planning, note all the arguments and motions that have been passed in their report. But the killer argument is this. There already is a regulator for renewable energy, and it is not the planning committee's job to second guess.

"It is evident that if the Government are requiring Ofgem to assess sustainability issues in nationally significant schemes relating to the sourcing of biofuels that receive Renewable Obligation Certificates [ROCs], the same would also apply to smaller scale schemes that receive ROCs. On this basis, for local planning authorities to also consider sustainability issues in respect of the proposed development would result in significant duplication of assessment on issues which are clearly controlled through other areas of legislative control."

They are right, factually. Ofgem does police ROCs, which are the lifeblood of the green power business. Without them, new technologies like biofuel or offshore wind cannot make money. So the officers argue that since one hand of government is already checking the fuel source, there is no point every council in the land having their own opinion.

Will councillors agree with their officers? Who knows. But the temperature of this debate has been raised by Cllr Janke's comments. Her own colleague, Cllr Steve Comer who is on the North Bristol committee, recently cautioned her high-profile intervention.

"It is possible that our opponents will accuse us of being subject to 'whipping' next month when this comes before the Committee, and will(selectively) quote from the Leader's press release to do so.

The objection to this plant seems largely based on the source of the fuel that it might use once it is operating. I understand the objections, yet when it comes to planning we cannot use ... morality to reject the application, any refusal will have to be on clear PLANNING grounds."

If the house in Stoke Bishop awaiting 'non-listed demolition work approval' is yours, come prepared for a long wait before your application comes up.

Airbus' military adventure: Is an A400M deal in the air?

Dave Harvey | 14:48 UK time, Monday, 22 February 2010

"Common sense will prevail," the smiling aviation expert tells me. "They'll do a deal now, and in my opinion it will be this week."

Could it really be that soon? Could this controversial aeroplane, three years late and billions of pounds over budget, finally be settled?

The Airbus A400M on the runway in Seville, 2008

It is beginning to look like it. The gap between EADS, Airbus' parent company, and the seven European nations buying the new military cargo plane has narrowed. In an investigation I've made for Inside Out West on BBC One, Philip Lawrence, who's been watching this project from Bristol since its birth in the 1980s, tells me it will happen very soon.

"The countries have come back to EADS with a decent offer," he says, "and now the company must decide. I think they will do a deal this week."

Originally the 20bn euro budget was bust by some 11bn euros. After cuts on the programme the real gap was 7.6bn, of which EADS was prepared to take 3.2bn itself. A game of extraordinarily high stakes poker followed. Led by the French, who are particularly keen on both the plane and the 10,000 jobs it has created, the nations buying the A400M offered another 2bn euros on the pricetag.

The gap was now 2.4bn euros. Yes, 2,400,000,000 euros.
Still a rather large number, even for a European aerospace giant.
Tom Enders, Airbus Chief Exec Then, in January, Airbus called the nations' bluff. Tom Enders, the Airbus Chief Exec, threatened to cancel the plane. That's right - call the whole show off. Unless the nations "came up with a contribution".

It worked. You don't easily get seven European defence ministers to agree on anything much, but they all want this plane. They think our Hercules fleet is too old, and they don't want to replace it with American C-17s or C-19s.

Another 1.5bn euros appeared; this time as export guarantees, not cash. But good enough.

As I write, the gap is now a measly 900m euros. OK, nearly £800m, but we're "in the ball park," as one analyst told me. Defence ministers meet in Spain on Thursday, and it could happen that soon.

"I think there's a good chance that we can come to an agreement." Tom Enders told the Financial Times on Friday. "But you won't see me being enthusiastic. It would be good news for suppliers and employees, but financially and resources-wise it would remain a burden for years to come."

Because this is a military plane, journalists are fond of battling metaphors. But in this deal, that misses the point. Although both sides want the other to pick up the bill, neither can afford a knock-out blow.

The nations buying the plane need Airbus. Some 10,000 jobs directly depend on the A400M programme across Europe. Former Royal Navy logistics officer Derek Forsyth, now with Sula Aerospace of Stroud, put it like this. "There would be too much damage to the industries of the UK, Germany, France, if it were stopped - and the reputation of Airbus would be trashed."

And Airbus, of course, needs the countries. There aren't too many customers for military transport planes. I'm guessing the Pentagon isn't at the front of the queue. Yes, in time the plane will sell round the world, but Europe is the home market. So this is the only deal in town.

The A400M Wing Assembly Facility at FiltonWhile they haggle, Filton is holding its breath. As ever they make the wings here, and when they rolled out the first completed aircraft, I went with dozens of staff on a special flight from Filton to Seville. When the plane finally took to the air last December, all 800 on the project here stopped work to watch, and applaud.
But don't expect them to crack open the champers when a deal is struck.

Thumbs up for Lift-Off at Filton Yes, Filton's teams and the thousands of other engineers across Europe will get on with making these astonishing aircraft. But Airbus will still be left with a bill of between three and four billion euros. The numbers are staggering, and I can't help worrying that aerospace workers across Europe will end up paying for it.

But the final surprise in this tale is this. A 3bn euro overspend is, well, OK actually.

"It's a big hit, yes, it's a big charge against the company's finances," Professor Lawrence tells me, "but it's one Airbus can recover from. The aerospace recession has not been as bad as feared, and the civilian planes are selling well. It's not ideal, but this is a huge programme, and Airbus can take the hit."

Two bits of video for you here, first the full 'bluff-calling' interview with Tom Enders, on BBC World in January.

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And second, the plane itself, in the skies over Seville, making its maiden flight in December 2009.

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What made Filton fly? From Box Kites to Concorde and beyond...

Dave Harvey | 15:27 UK time, Thursday, 18 February 2010

"He didn't invent the aeroplane - but he did invent the aeroplane industry". I heard it first from Sir George White who is, rather confusingly, the great-grandson of Sir George White.

A hundred years ago today, Sir George went to the board of his Bristol Tramways Company with a rather weird proposal. "Gentlemen, it might sound bizarre, (Ok, I'm paraphrasing here) but why don't we build a flying tram?"

The Bristol Box Kite on the DownsThe board bought it. They had some big sheds at the end of the tramline in Filton, they could use those. Six years ago those American brothers had got an aeroplane off the ground, it couldn't be that hard. By November, they had a Bristol Box Kite, ready to fly. Ever the salesman, Sir George advertised a maiden flight on the Downs, and what better way to get there than by tram?

Fast forward a hundred years, and those same sheds house a hi-tech aerospace business called Airbus. Five and a half thousand people work there, either for Airbus or for GKN, the manufacturing partner. Across the road, another 3,500 make Rolls Royce engines, also descended from the Bristol Aeroplane Company.

This isn't a history of aviation in Bristol. The web is already full of those. But I've been wondering what made Sir George's company stand and grow? Here's my (rather incomplete) answer: war, vanity and heroic failure.

"Regrettably, the two wars were responsible for a lot of Filton's growth, yes." I'm talking with Oliver Dearden, the master of all things aero-historic in these parts. He is Chairman of the Bristol Aero Collection and lists the great leaps forward in both wars. The Bristol Fighter. The Blenheim, later the Beaufighter. 107,000 engines which came out of Filton in WWII.

Blenheim bombers in WWIIThe Blenheim - seen here in action in North Africa - is a bit of an unsung hero outside the world of history buffs. Before Spitfires and Hurricanes came along, the twin engined light bomber was the mainstay of the RAF.

"When the war broke out in 1939 there were more Blenheims on the strength of the RAF than any other aircraft," Oliver tells me. "It was a Blenheim that made the first sortie of the war."

And the whole thing - airframe and engine - was made in Filton. The plane's origins give you an insight into the vanity that so often kick-started production.

In the mid 1930s Lord Rothermere, the newspaper magnate, was worried the Americans were getting ahead in the air. So, as you do, he challenged the British aero industry to make a small plane for him. Filton answered the call, and he rather liked the result. But then he discovered, rather embarrassingly, that this new toy went 50 mph faster than anything the RAF had. So, as you do, he gave it to the nation, calling his aircraft "Britain First". The RAF turned this into the Blenheim - and during the war 9,000 of them came out of Filton. Even the vainest of newspaper barons wouldn't have ordered quite that many.

Heroic Failures? Well, the best example will play host to the birthday party tomorrow. I am already ducking for cover as I describe the Bristol Brabazon as any kind of failure, but let's just say they never made a second one.

Contracted by the government after WWII, the Brabazon was huge. The largest passenger jet in the world - its wingspan was 35ft greater than a modern Boeing 747 - it was the first designed to fly non-stop to America. Again, go search the web for the detailed history - it's a fabulous tale - but here are some highlights.
The first with 100% powered flying controls; the first with hydraulics; the first with AC power onboard. It was designed as an ocean liner of the sky, BOAC considered each passenger should have roughly three times the space of a modern family car. Now that's what I call legroom.

They built one, it flew, it was a triumph. "But it was the wrong aircraft for its time," Oliver muses, "although much of its technology was used on Concorde, and without the Brabazon's huge hangar, would they have made the Concorde in Bristol at all?"

Of course there are other, more prosaic reasons for Filton's success. Hard work by the tens of thousands who worked there. Brilliant engineering. But without a war, a vain newspaper baron and a heroic failure - would Filton Aerodrome be the centre of aviation is still is today? Discuss... go on, you know you want to.

Power from Palm Trees: green dream, or eco-nightmare?

Dave Harvey | 14:46 UK time, Thursday, 11 February 2010

Palm Trees in BorneoMark Incledon has a cunning plan, a green plan. "Our vegetable oil comes from plants, and the beauty of plants is that they extract CO2 from the air, and pump oxygen back in. It's a totally green process."

Sounds simple, doesn't it? Take the oil from a plant, burn it in an engine to make electricity. The CO2 that comes out of your chimney is no more than the gas the plant absorbed when it grew.

Energy crisis solved. Global warming chilled.

Avonmouth skylineAnd that is pretty much the pitch that Bristol councillors will hear on February 24th. A group of entrepreneurs want to build a power station at Avonmouth. There's already a gas power plant there, a huge oil depot and six million tonnes of coal come through the port each year. No-one can claim this will spoil the view.

"We're going to make 400,000 mega watt hours of electricity," Mr Incledon goes on. "Enough to light up 25,000 houses."

The UK is running out of energy, especially electricity, and new sources are needed. This would be the country's first biofuel power station, and the company, W4B, plans others. Not only would they produce vital electricity, say W4B, they would do so with the carbon footprint of a mouse.

But the opposition is mammoth.

Here's why. The plant will need around 70,000 tonnes of vegetable oil a year. To feed it, at least at first, W4B accept they will need to enter the murky waters of the palm oil debate.

Logging in the Malaysian Rainforest"All the palm oil that's being grown at the moment, is being used," Jeremy Birch explains. He runs the Bristol Friends of the Earth, and is one of 900 people who have formally opposed this plant.

"So if they increase the demand for palm oil, the only way they can meet that is with new plantations. And that means chopping down rainforests."

Mr Birch and his friends reckon the biofuel plant will, of itself, result in rainforests being cutdown, orangutans being killed, indigenous people being displaced. Not surprisingly, W4B disagree.

It's a hugely complex row. There is extensive evidence that illegal logging in places like Borneo and Sumatra is connected to the palm oil trade. Certainly ground that has been cleared often ends up being planted with palms. But this is a row that pulls you one way, then the other. And W4B have a trump card.

"We will only use sustainable oil," Mr Incledon insists.

Just as you can buy organic coffee or Fairtrade chocolate, they will buy 'sustainable' oil from the official Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO). Mr Incledon clearly thinks this clinches his pitch. "Our oil hasn't been part of the deforestation process. It hasn't resulted in indigenous people being displaced."

The question is, how sustainable is this oil? The industry insists it is serious, and just recently Unilever, one of the largest buyers in the trade, cancelled a contract because of breaches of the sustainability codes. But in south Bristol, I meet a wildlife filmmaker who has seen, first hand, worrying evidence.

Land cleared in Indonesia for 'sustainable palm oil production'

Evie Wright has spent five years documenting the destruction of Indonesia's rainforests. Recently, she has started filming on plantations that claim to be sustainable. Her films make for worrying viewing.

"People have had their land taken off them. Plantations which ought to be producing palm oil sustainably are using fire to clear the land as a cheap option."

Evie's films have been shown to the RSPO, and her evidence is being examined at the highest level. She claims that because the plantations are hundreds of miles from the head offices in Jacarta and Kuala Lumpur, managers have little idea what actually happens on the ground.

It's a compelling case. If she's right, then sustainable palm oil is a myth, and Bristol's entrepreneurs are being sold a pup. But, once again, they have a riposte.

"We are relying on Ofgem," Mark Incledon tells me. The government's energy regulator polices renewable fuels, like palm oil, and awards a complex series of subsidies. W4B argue that if Ofgem say their oil is ok, that should be good enough for the campaigners. But there's more.

"In addition W4B is committed to independent monitoring of the fuel sources we use," Mr Incledon explains. "And if a better source comes along, we can use that. This plant will be green, 100% green."

See what I mean about complicated? I'd love to hear your take on it right here.
Planning councillors from north Bristol have ten days to get their heads around it. Already the leader of the council has waded into the row, writing to the Energy Secretary recently:

"The use of these fuel sources creates a market that is leading directly or indirectly to deforestation and loss of agricultural land. Without the (subsidies) that the government provides, there would be no market and the land in developing countries could be returned to food production or left to remain pristine."

I've been making a documentary about this, which you can see on Inside Out West, on Monday 15 Feb at 7:30pm on BBC One for the full story. Meantime, here's a preview:

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"Kraft made a fool of us," say Keynsham chocolate workers

Dave Harvey | 18:36 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Amoree Radford is utterly gutted. "I believed Kraft totally," she told BBC Points West tonight. "But they made a fool of me. They are utterly despicable."

Amoree Radford in Keynsham tonightThroughout the Kraft / Cadbury takeover battle, Amoree took what she called "the glass half-full approach". When she read that famous pledge from the American Chief Exec Irene Rosenfeld, "...we believe we would be in a position to continue to operate the Somerdale facility..." Amoree believed it.

Cynics scoffed, many of them on this blog. 'greybead1' put it like this.

In spite of all the promises made by Kraft regarding the Keynsham premises, I predict that within a year of the dust settling those premises will be closed. I hope I am wrong.

Well, greybeard, you were right.

I was told by a Wall St insider that Irene Rosenfeld's personal word was at stake. That a U-turn would be a 'PR disaster'. Well, Wall St was wrong. At 5:56 tonight, this dropped in my inbox from Kraft:

"Regrettably, the company has now confirmed that the Somerdale plant will close by 2011 in line with the plans already put in place by Cadbury".

A worker leaves the Cadbury factoryThe 500 staff at Keynsham were told this afternoon, by Cadbury managers. One worker on his way out tonight told us "It was obviously a big fat lie. Apparently the plans to move to Poland were too far gone to reverse them, so we're still for the chop."

So what has changed? Is there anything more here than just "a big fat lie"?

Kraft are refusing any television or radio interviews point blank. But their spokesman in the UK, Jonathan Horrell, tells me everything changed when they got the keys to the Cadbury kingdom. They talked to the Cadbury people working on the move to Poland. They discovered a £100 million factory was being built, and the majority of chocolate lines were already being transferred.

And so Irene Rosenfeld issued a new personal statement:

"It became clear that it is unrealistic to reverse the closure programme, despite our original intent to do so. While this is a difficult decision, we have moved quickly to end any further uncertainty."

Surely, I press him, none of this was new. We all knew the Cadbury plans were well advanced. Everyone in Keynsham knew that people would start to leave in March. That chocolates would start being marked "Made in Poland". You can see the new factory on Polish TV, on the internet.

No, Mr Horrell insists, we had no information from Cadbury throughout the negotiation. Only last week did Cadbury and Kraft executives sit down and work through the detail. It is regrettable, he tells me, but it is a genuine change of heart based on new information.

Dan Norris, the local MP, told Points West he was "bitterly disappointed at this news. We've had our hopes raised, and now dashed again. In a global market this is what happens, foreign companies buy British companies, but I'm not concerned about that today - I'm concerned about the people locally who are affected."

Of course, six months ago Keynsham knew its beloved chocolate factory was closing. So have they lost anything? Not substantially, no. But the bitterness is etched on Amoree Radford's face. Bitterness, and betrayal. What passions our chocolates arouse.

Kraft in Keynsham: more twists than a Curly Wurly

Dave Harvey | 10:11 UK time, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

If you catch a train to Keynsham, the station is called Somerdale, like the chocolate factory. And the platform is extraordinarily long for a small commuter town midway between Bath and Bristol.

Cadbury's Somerdale Factory in Keynsham

But then Keynsham is not really a town with a chocolate factory. It's more a chocolate factory with a town. The station was built by Fry's, who even had a 'Puss-moth' aeroplane in the '30s to make urgent chocolate deliveries to a travelling circus. So when whispers about the factory go round the town, the whole place buzzes. Right now, the whisper is that the Americans are going to renege on their famous promise.

"There is real anxiety that by the time they make a final decision, it could already be too late", says the town's MP, Dan Norris. The Union rep from Unite adds further fuel to the fire. Jenny Formby says "Kraft were being very irresponsible to talk about changes at Somerdale." She spoke at length about her concerns to BBC Radio Bristol this morning.

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So what's going on? What's happened to that famous pledge from the Kraft CEO?

"...we believe we would be in a position to continue to operate the Somerdale facility,which is currently planned to be closed ..."

Let's go back to trains. Imagine a big loco at Somerdale station, being loaded with chocolate machines marked "Poland". The mysterious box that produces Fry's Turkish Delight. The secret recipe for the Crunchie honeycomb. And along by the station master's office, a couple of porters load the legendary twizzler that makes a Curly Wurly curly.

Under Cadbury plans, all 11 chocolate delights made in Keynsham were to move to Poland by the end of the year. That process starts in March. So in three weeks time, the first lines close here and start up over there. Hundreds of workers pick up redundancy cheques and start their new lives in a world beyond chocolate. By the end of 2010, Somerdale is shut. You can even see them building the new factory on Polish TV.

Meanwhile, of course, Kraft have bought the whole sweetie shop. They got the keys to the Crunchie Kingdom a week ago, on Tuesday 2 February. Cadbury's is a huge organisation, employing 5,500 people here and thousands more round the world. Not unreasonably then, they decided on a review of their production facilities. How long for that? Six months.

Do the maths. The Somerdale train is chuffing in the station, ready to go. By the end of the six month review, half the production lines will already be in Poland.

"Somerdale staff, local businesses and residents are calling for Kraft to be make their intentions clear as a matter of urgency. Somerdale needs a 'stay of execution' to ensure it can remain operational."

Can the Americans halt the train? Will they, as it were, come panting onto the platform like some old movietime hero shouting "Stop, stop, unload the Crunchie Machine! Bring the Wurly Curler back inside the factory! This train is going nowhere?"

It would be stunning if they did. Instead, we have this from Kraft's UK Head of Corporate Affairs, Jonathan Hurrell: "We have to review in detail with Cadbury's management the progress of their plan to transfer production and how it fits into Cadbury's 'Vision into Action' restructuring programme."

They say news abhors a vacuum. Kraft are saying nothing more than this at the moment, and giving no television or radio interviews. While they stay silent, Keynsham is producing more rumous and whispers than Crunchies and Curly Wurlies.

Update 18:01
Kraft have now announced that they will close the Keynsham factory. The news broke on the wires just now, and my sources at Somerdale tell me that staff were told this afternoon. Amoree Radford, who has been campaigning tirelessly for two years, was devastated. "I believed them," she said to me, "I thought they would keep their word. And now look at this. We've lost the factory after all."

'Kraft will cut jobs': Is Mary Buffett right?

Dave Harvey | 14:30 UK time, Monday, 1 February 2010

Chocolate wars : the deal is nearly doneEveryone in the world seems to have an opinion on whether Kraft will sack people once they get the keys to Cadbury's. Here's another one, from an American analyst.

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Strong stuff: "Jobs will have to go," she says. There's more from her, and others stateside, on Inside Out West which you can watch on the iPlayer now.

And Mary Buffett is as well-placed as any. A respected analyst, a Kraft shareholder herself, oh - and there's the father-in-law, Warren. As well as being the world's richest man, Warren Buffett is also Kraft's biggest shareholder. He - and Mary it seems - are worried about the £7bn debt that the US food giant has racked up to buy the crown jewels of British chocolate. Question is, are they right?

Here's the case. At £11.5bn, Cadbury's is already a large firm. Unlikely, then, there can be any "economies of scale". The firm is modern and efficient already, so the chances of Kraft's wizards coming in and finding brilliant new efficiencies are equally slim. So, say the doom-mongers, the only way the Americans can make money is by cutting costs. And that means jobs. Of the 5,500 Cadbury workers in the UK, 5,000 work at either Keynsham or Bournville, in factories, making chocolate. Head office savings are, forgive me, barely a Wispa.
Kraft factory in Illinois, USA Search the blogs, and you'll find plenty of echoes of this line. Not least on this blog. Here's three. 'Culverin' put it like this two weeks ago.

- If the corporation has borrowed 7 billion to buy you, they become far more untrustworthy.

Back in October, 'dontmakeawave' suggested:
Kraft will expand the Cadbury brands but will seek to produce at the cheapest cost to maximise volume and profit. This doesn't just mean production in places like Poland but it also means the cost and mix of ingredients. I used to love one of Terry's main products and bought it for thirty years. But soon after the Kraft takeover I believe the taste changed, and have never bought it since.

And there are plenty more.

But before you hang the yanks, hear the case for the defence.

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In a word, their case rests on trust.

Irene Rosenfeld, the Kraft CEO, personally added that famous line in page three of the initial offer document:
"...we believe we would be in a position to continue to operate the Somerdale facility,which is currently planned to be closed ..."

A Wall St Journal reporter told me last week that Ms Rosenfeld was wooing shareholders by repeating this personal assurance. Cutting manufacturing jobs, she says, is not Kraft's style. Just yesterday, she gave the Telegraph this pledge:
"We have made a commitment that we believe we will be a net positive for manufacturing jobs [for Cadbury] and I am still hopeful that we will be able to accomplish that."

As one analyst put it to me last week, a lawyer could wiggle out of all those words. But it would be a PR disaster, and the end of Irene Rosenfeld's personal reputation.

But there is a way Kraft can make good money without breaking their word.

How? India. My mother-in-law, who played hockey on the Fry fields in Keynsham, is on holiday in Goa at the moment. But there's no escape from the chocolate war, she laughs on an email, attaching this piece from the Economic Times of India.

It's worth a read. But the fact that leapt out at me was this. Kraft have been trying for a decade to get "into India". Cadburys have 1.2 million outlets already. From Wednesday, those shops can now sell Ritz crackers and Toblerones alongside the Dairy Milks and Creme Eggs. Kraft's offer document promises that the deal will boost growth from 4%+ to 5%+ and with another million shops selling their wares in India, you can see why.

Like a good sweet shop, there's an opinion for everyone in this deal. Weasel words from corporate lawyers? Swoop by an American Food Giant? or maybe Global corporate saves local factory? Take your pick. But there is one opinion I would like to remove from the Selection Box. And that is the much bemoaned "Death of a British Icon". Cadbury floated on the stock market in 1962. From that day, 'foreigners' have owned shares. At present, the top shareholder is Franklin Mutual Advisers, based in New Jersey. The Chief Executive studied law at Harvard University, Massachussets, USA.

How British was this icon anyway?

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