Hershey’s company jet flew to Warren Buffett’s hometown, sparking speculation that the investor could buy the candy company

Warren Buffett makes Sees Candies
Warren Buffett.

  • Hershey’s company jet made a rare trip to Warren Buffett’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska.
  • The candy group’s bosses may have discussed a sale with the investor, an analyst speculated.
  • Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway owns See’s Candies and financed Mars’ purchase of Wrigley.
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Hershey’s corporate jet recently flew to Warren Buffett’s hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. The candymaker’s bosses may have visited the Berkshire Hathaway CEO to discuss a potential sale, an analyst who correctly predicted a past Buffett deal speculated in a note to clients last week.

The Hershey plane made its first trip to Omaha in at least a year on June 12, Don Bilson, the boss of Gordon Haskett’s event-driven research team, revealed in the note. The plane “stayed in Omaha for a couple of days which is certainly enough time for anyone who made that trip to pay the Big Guy a visit,” Bilson wrote, citing jet-tracking data.

Of course, Hershey’s plane may have landed in Omaha for other reasons. For example, Olympic swimming trials took place on the dates it was in the city, Bilson said. Hershey’s and Berkshire declined requests for comment from CNBC.

Bilson has sniffed out deals before. For example, he spotted that Occidental Petroleum’s corporate jet had visited Omaha in 2019, leading him to correctly predict that Buffett would help finance Occidental’s takeover of Anadarko Petroleum.

Buffett has bet on confectionery companies before. He famously acquired See’s Candies in 1972, and later described the seller of boxed chocolates as his “dream business.” The investor also shelled out $6.5 billion to help Mars purchase Wrigley during the financial crisis. He quipped at the time that he had conducted a “70-year taste test” on the pair’s products, and they had passed.

“We have long thought that he was the perfect buyer for Hershey,” Bilson and his team wrote in their note. “More than that, he may be the only realistic buyer who would win approval from the Hershey Trust.”

The Hershey Trust commands over 80% of Hershey’s voting rights, meaning a suitor would have to secure their support to buy the chocolate company. Buffett has acquired family-owned businesses such as Nebraska Furniture Mart by offering them a permanent home at Berkshire and promising minimal interference in their operations.

Hershey’s market capitalization is about $36 billion, meaning it’s within Buffett’s price range. The Berkshire chief, who has been hunting for an “elephant-sized acquisition” for years, said in May that he’s willing to deploy up to $80 billion of his company’s cash. However, he also ruled out any near-term takeovers because special-purpose acquisition companies (SPACs) and private equity firms would outbid him.

Buffett has also praised Hershey in the past, describing it as a “wonderful business” and powerful hedge against inflation at Berkshire’s 2007 shareholder meeting.

“If you own Coca-Cola, if you own Snickers bars, if you own Hershey bars, if you own anything that people are going to want to give a portion of their current income to keep getting, and it has relatively low capital investment attached to it so that you don’t have to keep plowing tremendous amounts of money in just to meet inflationary demands, that’s the best investment you can probably have in an inflationary world,” he said.

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Reese’s is selling its first chocolate-free peanut butter cup ahead of Easter this year

  • Reese’s is launching peanut butter cups with no chocolate. 
  • The new candy will launch in April, right around Easter, a major candy holiday.
  • Hershey’s, which owns Reese’s, continued to grow in 2020 despite the pandemic.
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Reese’s just announced it will launch a new peanut butter cup flavor, the “Ultimate Peanut Butter Lovers Cups.”

The new candy is like a traditional peanut butter cup, but the typical chocolate shell will be replaced with a “100% peanut butter candy-flavored shell.” The peanut butter cups will launch in April in standard, king size, and miniature for a limited run.

According to a press release, Reese’s had previously tested limited releases of Peanut Butter Lovers Cups in 2019 and 2020. The 2021 version is the first to forgo chocolate altogether, though. “While launching a Reese’s Cup with absolutely no chocolate might come as a shock, we’re giving the truest peanut butter fans something to go wild about,” Reese’s Brand Manager Margo McIlvaine said in a statement. 

Reese’s is owned by Hershey’s, which has seen sales increase over the past year. Net sales increased 5.7% year-over-year in the fourth quarter of 2020, largely driven by chocolate brands and baking items like peanut butter and cocoa. Customers coped with quieter holidays by buying more candy, and profits rose nearly 14% in the third quarter thanks to Halloween candy sales, including Reese’s.

Peanut Butter Lovers Cups will launch around the same time as Easter 2021, which falls on April 4 this year. Easter is typically a big candy holiday, and Hershey’s owns three of the biggest brands, Cadbury, Reese’s, and Hershey’s with a 40% market share. Easter could be part of a strong start to 2021 for Hershey’s.

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