A complaint against Kraft has been lodged with the London market's takeover panel alleging the US group misled Cadbury employees and investors during its battle for the Dairy Milk maker, it was revealed today.
A local campaigner and Conservative party candidate have written to the panel complaining that they believe Kraft breached takeover rules when it pledged to keep the Somerdale factory open near Bath in England, only to change its mind soon after the £11.5bn (€12.7bn) Cadbury deal completed.
The US food giant has attracted strong criticism over the Somerdale decision, with the factory now set to close with the loss of hundreds of jobs.
It is thought that the takeover panel has launched an inquiry into the Kraft takeover following the complaint to examine comments made by Kraft executives during the buyout.
Kraft officials had said in initial approaches to Cadbury that the group “believes it will be in a position to continue to operate the Somerdale facility”, despite the UK firm’s plans to move production to Poland.
However, in February the US firm announced that the plant would shut by 2011, less than a month after winning a bitter five-month tussle with Cadbury.
The complaint to the takeover panel was made by Amoree Radford, who heads up the Save Cadbury’s campaign to preserve Keynsham’s chocolate factory, and local Tory candidate Jacob Rees-Mogg.
They allege in the letter that Kraft did not adhere to UK regulations requiring firms to prepare statements with the highest degree of care and accuracy.
The letter states: “The speed with which the closure was announced indicates that the stated intention to keep the factory open was either made without due care or was knowingly inaccurate.
“It is our view that this type of behaviour discredits the City, undermines confidence in financial markets and deserves stern disciplinary action.”
The takeover panel declined to comment and Kraft was not immediately available for comment.
News of the complaint comes as Cadbury shares officially delisted from the London Stock Exchange after the takeover was sealed on February 2.
Kraft’s purchase of Cadbury has continued to attract controversy, particularly on the subject of UK jobs.
The Business Select Committee will question Kraft executives later this month on the company’s future plans.
Last month the US firm said it was “unrealistic” to reverse Cadbury’s plans to shut the Somerdale factory.
It said Cadbury had already spent £100m (€110m) on building new facilities in Poland and most production would be transferred by the middle of this year.
And this month Kraft further drew the fire of UK unions when it announced its first job cuts within weeks of the takeover.
Up to 150 jobs are threatened at Cadbury’s offices in Uxbridge, west London, and Bournville in Birmingham as Kraft looks to cut out duplications in its newly enlarged operations.
Products manufactured at the Somerdale site include Fry’s Chocolate Cream, the Double Decker, Dairy Milk, Chocolate Buttons, Creme Eggs and Mini Eggs, Cadbury’s Fudge, Chomp and the Crunchie.