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Sat, Sep 15, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Campbell Soup Co seeks US$1 billion for Godiva division

TEMPTING OFFER The announcement by the soup maker had analysts speculating on potential bidders, from Lindt to Cadbury and Hershey

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Campbell Soup Co, the world's largest soup maker, is seeking US$1 billion to US$1.5 billion for its Godiva chocolate division, two people with direct knowledge of the sale said.

Financial information about the unit will be sent to potential buyers later this month, said the people, who declined to be identified before an agreement is reached.

Godiva, which generates 7 percent of Camden, New Jersey based Campbell's revenue, is for sale after 40 years as chief executive officer Douglas Conant lifts growth of V8 juice and Swanson broth.

proceeds

The soup manufacturer may use the proceeds to reduce debt, A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc analyst Christopher Growe wrote on Aug. 9, when Campbell announced it was studying options for Godiva.

Selling the chocolate division "certainly makes sense," said Alton Stump, an analyst at Longbow Research in Independence, Ohio. "It's not a core asset."

Campbell rose US$0.32 to US$35.45 in New York Stock Exchange composite trading on Thursday. The stock has fallen 4.1 percent since the Aug. 9 announcement.

Lindt & Spruengli AG may be one of the bidders, the people said. The Kilchberg, Switzerland-based chocolate maker said on Sept. 4 it was considering making an offer.

Campbell would not comment on potential bidders or the timing of its review of Godiva, spokesman Anthony Sanzio said.

The company is expanding into China and Russia, whose economies are growing faster and where soup consumption outpaces the US.

Godiva competes with Vevey, Switzerland-based Nestle SA and Lindt & Spruengli, the maker of Ghirardelli chocolates.

Nestle said on Feb. 22 it didn't plan any acquisitions to expand its chocolate business.

"I don't see now, into the future, any major acquisition," chairman and chief executive Peter Brabeck said in an interview on Aug. 15.

possible buyers

Potential bidders include Hershey Co, closely held Mars Inc of McLean, Virginia, and London-based Cadbury Schweppes PLC, the world's biggest candy maker, according to a report last month from Credit Suisse Group analyst Rob Moskow.

Kirk Saville, a spokesman for Hershey, Pennsylvania-based Hershey, declined to comment. Calls to Cadbury spokespeople weren't immediately returned.

Zurich, Switzerland-based Barry Callebaut AG, the world's biggest maker of bulk chocolate, ruled itself out of the bidding for Godiva on Thursday.

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