UK confectionery and soft drinks giant Cadbury Schweppes, has tabled a US$4bn bid for Adams, the US chewing gum and functional foods company put on the market by the Pfizer pharmaceuticals group.

Cadbury was very much in the running to buy Hershey Foods in the summer, and when that auction was called off, speculation immediately turned to Adams, the other likely acquisition candidate for the big names in the food industry. Adams makes Halls cough lozenges, as well as the popular Trident and Dentyne chewing gum brands.

Financiers believe Cadbury could raise up to £3bn (US$4.6bn) for acquisitions without having to initiate a rights issue.

Other likely bidders for the gum group include Nestlé, also disappointed when the Hershey sale was called. Cadbury had teamed up with Nestlé to make a joint bid for Hershey, but it is not thought likely that the two European companies would make a common approach for Adams.

Wrigley, which it is believed would have emerged the victor if the Hershey auction had reached fruition, is not thought to be interested in Adams, as such a deal would inevitably cause problems with the antitrust authorities.