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Earnings Preview: The Hershey Co.

MARC LEVY

HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) ¿ The Hershey Co., the nation's second-leading candy maker, reports earnings for the third quarter on Thursday morning. The following is a summary of key developments and analyst opinion related to the period.

OVERVIEW: Five strong quarters in a row at Hershey put an end to a two-year slide. The company was closely watched in recent weeks as speculation boiled about a takeover of British chocolate and gum maker Cadbury PLC.

The company said nothing publicly about Cadbury in the third quarter. It has an existing relationship with Cadbury: It is licensed to make and distribute Cadbury products, including York peppermint patties, Cadbury chocolates and Caramello candy bars for the U.S. market.

Some analysts pointed to Cadbury's strong market share in developing countries such as India as a reason why Hershey should be interested in buying some of the company. That presence could dovetail with Hershey's effort to gain a foothold in the world's fastest-growing countries, the analysts said.

Hershey has been cautious about its predictions for 2009, worrying that comparisons to last year will be dicey because it has now lapped a price increase that helped boost its revenue in 2008. However, strong sales in the first two quarters prompted Hershey in July to raise its initial 2009 revenue and profit projections.

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