NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- If you love chocolate as much as I do, this article will speak to your desire always to have enough.Whether it's dark chocolate, or milk, or both, the desire for this cocoa-based confection and all its psychological benefits is greater than ever. Yet there are concerns about the production of the bean from which chocolate is derived. The companies that buy cocoa and make chocolate products are working closely with the farmers in areas where cocoa is grown. Crop yields have been diminishing, but the demand for the scrumptious product is increasing annually. That's why chocolate-treat makers are pledging funds to help farmers learn the latest agricultural secrets about growing abundant supplies. Mars made headlines not long ago by saying it would spend $30 million a year over the next 10 years towards that goal. This lucrative and virtually recession-proof business of providing candies, cookies and other chocolate goodies is on the minds of some activist investors of late. The rumor mill has been churning. Speculation is swirling that Bill Ackman may try soon to raise around $1 billion this month for a new stock fund. He supposedly wants to target promising companies that need some prodding. Industry insiders have a short list of potential large-cap companies that may warrant Mr. Ackman's attention. One of those is Mondelez International ( MDLZ), the Kraft Foods ( KRFT) spinoff that has floundered lately. MDLZ, among other snack foods makes cookies, crackers and confectionery products, including chocolates, gums and candies. It offers powdered beverages, coffee, cheese and grocery products. Its primary brand portfolio includes Oreo-, Nabisco- and LU-branded biscuits. In the confectionery department, its brands include Milka, Cadbury Dairy Milk and Cadbury.
Shares of MDLZ, as the one-year chart above illustrates, rose along with quarterly growth in revenue per share. But year-over-year quarterly earnings per share fell over 30% in the first quarter of 2013. This, and other factors, contributed to its stock price correcting in recent months. MDLZ shares have begun to recover, perhaps on activist-investor speculation. Another financial concern is the large debt load MDLZ carries. At the end of the first quarter, it was more than $18.5 billion, compared to its total cash of only $2.89 billion. The trailing 12-month operating cash flow was nearly $4.4 billion. The company announced on July 10 that it will release its second-quarter financial results on Aug. 7 at 4 p.m. EDT and will host a conference call one hour later. The consensus analyst estimates are for the current quarter's EPS to have an ominous drop of around 48% and an equally foreboding plunge in revenue of about 35%.