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Hershey Still Open to Acquisitions Overseas, CEO Says

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May 4 (Bloomberg) -- Hershey Co. Chief Executive Officer David J. West reiterated that he’s open to acquisitions overseas, saying the candy maker has learned from its scrapped plans to bid for the U.K.’s Cadbury Plc.

“We have a better understanding of what we would like to acquire,” West said today during the chocolate maker’s annual meeting in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He also said Hershey plans to upgrade plants to become more efficient and lower expenses.

Reducing costs may help West, 47, as he looks to add scale to the candy maker, whose brands include Reese’s peanut butter cups and Hershey’s Kisses. Hershey may use its cash flow to buy companies outside the U.S., West said in February. More regional candy companies probably will become available because of recent industry consolidation, he has said.

Hershey decided against a bid for Cadbury in January after the confectioner accepted an 11.9 billion-pound ($18 billion) offer from Kraft Foods Inc. The acquisition will make Kraft the world’s biggest confectioner, surpassing closely held Mars Inc., according to Euromonitor International sales data.

The stock dropped 54 cents to $47.02 by 4:01 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. It has gained 31 percent this year.

Hershey had more than $300 million in cash and cash equivalents on hand as of the end of first quarter. The company bought Barry Callebaut AG’s Van Houten Singapore consumer unit last year, sharpening its focus on Asia.

To contact the reporter on this story: Duane D. Stanford in Atlanta at dstanford2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jennifer Sondag at jsondag@bloomberg.net