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NEW YORK -- Switzerland-based Nestle today announced an $11.5-billion offer
to buy Pennsylvania candymaker Hershey Foods.
The bid, which offers a sizable premium over Hershey's Friday closing price of $75.03, makes Nestle, the world's largest packaged food manufacturer, the frontrunner in the race to buy Hershey.
Philip Morris and Cadbury Schweppes are both expected to make rival bids, which Wall Street analysts say could reach $12 billion.
Hershey, a 108-year-old company, was recently put up for sale by the charitable trust that controls almost 80 percent of the company's voting shares. However, talk of the sale has generated significant opposition in the candymaker's hometown of Hershey, Pa., where 6,000 of the company's 14,000 employees reside.
Opponents of the sale, including the company's employees and local small-business owners, fear that a new owner may move the company, cut jobs and destroy the city's identity.
Hershey would be Nestle's biggest acquisition, beating the recent $10-billion purchase of Ralston Purina and the $2.6-billion purchase of Chef America.