Page last updated at 14:06 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 15:06 UK

Mars set to pocket Wrigley's gum

Wrigley's brands
Wrigley's has been making gum for more than 100 years

Confectionery giant Mars is set to buy US firm Wrigley's, best known for its chewing gum, for $23bn (11.5bn).

The takeover proposal, in which Mars is offering Wrigley's investors $80 a share, is one of the largest global deals of recent years.

Renowned investor Warren Buffett will take a minority share in Wrigley's once the deal is completed, which is expected to take up to a year.

Mars is best known for its chocolate brands including Snickers and M&Ms.

Wrigley's dominates the global chewing gum market despite growing competition from rival Cadbury Schweppes in recent years.

The firm had a strong 2007, generating $932m in annual profit on sales of $5.4bn thanks to buoyant business in Europe and Asia. However, sales in the US have been flat.

No sticking points

Since being founded in 1891, Wrigley's has been run by family members and current boss Bill Wrigley will remain as chairman following the deal.

Its principal brands include Spearmint Gum and Orbit.

We see this as a historic opportunity to preserve what is special about Wrigley in terms of value and culture
Bill Wrigley, Wrigley's chairman

Combined, the Wrigley's and Mars businesses will have annual sales of more than $27bn.

Wrigley's board has backed the deal, which must be approved by its shareholders.

"This is a great transaction at a great price," Mr Wrigley said.

"We see this as a historic opportunity to preserve what is special about Wrigley in terms of value and culture while continuing to grow and develop and invest in our brands."

Founded in 1891
Brands include Spearmint Gum, Juicy Fruit and Orbit
Annual sales of $5.4bn

Mars, which is a private company, said the deal would create the "best" as well as the biggest confectionery business in the world.

"We share common values and ways of doing business," Mars president Paul Michaels.

As part of the deal, Warren Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway will purchase a minority stake in Wrigley's worth $2.1bn.

"I have been a big fan of Wrigley's business model for many years and I love their products," said Mr Buffett, known as the Sage of Omaha for his shrewd investment record.

Founded in 1911
Brands include Milky Way, Snickers and Starburst
Annual sales of $22bn

The combined business will employ about 64,000 staff and control a wealth of top brands.

As part of the deal, responsibility for Mars' existing sweets range, such as Starburst and Skittles, will transfer to Chicago-based Wrigley's.

As well as its chocolate business, Mars owns a range of food and household goods including Uncle Ben's rice and Whiskas cat food.

Wrigley's UK operation is based in Plymouth while Mars is located in Slough, Berkshire.

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