Potential buyers for US confectionery giant Hershey are close to putting their bids on the table, despite ongoing legal hitches, sources familiar with the situation said on Sunday.
" Hershey is getting toward the stage where they're in a position to make a selection and maybe move into exclusive negotiations with someone," one source told Reuters.
Chocolate makers Cadbury Schweppes of Britain and Nestle of Switzerland meanwhile are close to an agreement on a joint bid for the company, famous for its Hershey's Kisses and chocolate bars, sources told Reuters on Sunday.
Analysts have said the deal, which has also attracted attention from US-based Kraft Foods, could net $12 billion (€12.2bn) or more.
Nestle and Cadbury are planning a deal that would envisage Nestle buying Hershey and then pass on some brands to the British confectionery and soft drinks firm, sources close to the talks said. This would also facilitate regulatory approval.
"The logic behind a combination is a good one," one said.
A source close to Cadbury said it would seek to take control of its own brands, licensed to Hershey in the US and others and the means to distribute its other products.
"It would not make sense for Cadbury just to get its own brands back....they won't go back to having a minor position," the source said.
Spokesmen for Cadbury and Nestle declined to comment on whether they were in talks on Sunday.
Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported Cadbury was ready to commit up to three billion pounds ($4.7 billion) in a joint bid.
A Pennsylvania judge last week put the sale of Hershey Foods on hold, throwing the planned auction of the fabled confectionery maker in doubt and preventing any sale until he can determine whether it needs court approval.
However, sources close to Nestle and Cadbury have said the companies are confident a sale will go through.
Bankers and analysts have said they expect negotiations to continue during the legal impasse.