Operations chief John Bilbrey will replace West temporarily, and the board said it will "move quickly" to find a permanent CEO.
Investors were jittery about the executive shuffle, bidding Hershey shares 2.8% lower to close at $55.48 in Wednesday's trading session amid heavy volume. More than 4.2 million shares changed hands, compared with their average daily volume of 1.2 million.
Citi analyst David Driscoll noted that West's exit from Hershey's masthead could make the company a prime takeover target, though he estimated the probability of a sale is only around 10%, up from his estimation of 2%.Driscoll tapped Nestle (NSRGY) or Kraft as likely bidders who may view Hershey's executive changeup as "a good opportunity" to buy.
Deutsche Bank analyst Eric Katzman noted that executive changes come at an uncertain time for Hershey as the company faces soaring commodity prices for cocoa, sugar and milk -- headwinds that led it to cut costs.
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