Cadbury gets sweet deal; Yahoo sours

Contact: Brenon Daly

When Kraft Foods first launched its bid for Cadbury four months ago, we termed the offer ‘an Old Economy rendition’ of Microsoft’s reach for Yahoo in early 2008. And while it wasn’t a direct parallel, there were a number of similarities: A diversified, dividend-paying company makes an unsolicited play for a target that’s only just into a restructuring program, with a goal of bolstering a business where it’s currently an also-ran.

The parallels diverged even wider on Tuesday, as the British confectioner agreed to a raised bid from Kraft. Cadbury shareholders will pocket $19.5bn in cash and Kraft stock for their company, about 11% higher than Kraft initially offered. It represents the highest-ever price for Cadbury stock on the London Stock Exchange.

So that’s the reward to shareholders from a selling company. What about on the other side? What’s happened to the owners of Yahoo since the Internet giant spurned the advances of Microsoft (as Cadbury once dismissed the interest of Kraft)? Shares of Yahoo currently trade at just half the level that Microsoft bid for them. And it isn’t just the fact that shares got hit by the biggest economic upheaval since the Great Depression since Yahoo turned down Microsoft’s interest. In the nearly two years since that decision, the Nasdaq has basically flat-lined while Yahoo stock has dropped by one-third.