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Cadbury Delays Drinks Sale Amid Market Turmoil

Britain's Cadbury Schweppes said it was extending the timetable for the sale of its
North American drinks business due to the turbulence in debt markets, although it added buying interest was keen.

Sources close to the sale say the auction may be delayed by a matter of weeks but they still expect the business to fetch 7.0-7.5 billion pounds ($14.4-15.4 billion) with a private equity consortium the most likely final buyer of the business.

Cadbury , the world's biggest confectionery group, said in a statement that the sale process for its North American beverage business is ongoing, and that interest remains strong.

"However, the leveraged debt markets have experienced extreme volatility in recent days. As a result, a decision has been taken to extend the sale timetable to allow bidders to complete their proposals against a more stable debt financing market," the group said in a statement.

Cadbury shares dipped 2.6% in a London stock market off 0.6%.

The auction process has boiled down to a two-horse race between three-party private equity consortia, the sources said.

Blackstone Group, teaming up with Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Lion Capital, was thought to be the front runner with a rival private equity grouping including Bain Capital Partners,
Thomas H. Lee Partners and TPG also bidding, the sources added.

Originally, final bids for the drinks business had been due on Monday, July 30, while Cadbury announces its half-year results on Wednesday Aug. 1.