What could be more American than Bubblicious gum? Soon, just about anything.

As contradictory as it sounds, Bubblicious will soon be claimed by the United Kingdom. Pfizer(NYSE: PFE) is selling its Adams confectionery business, including Bubblicious, Trident, Dentyne, Certs, and Halls, to British Cadbury SchweppesPLC(NYSE: CSG). The price of gum? $4.2 billion, including taxes. (What comes around goes around, eh, Britain? Thanks for the tea.)

Pfizer obtained Adams with its $80-billion Warner-Lambert acquisition more than two years ago. Adams didn't jive with Pfizer's drug focus, but Pfizer was barred from selling the division for two years. Adams was shopped around starting this summer; various competitors showed interest; and now Pfizer is getting a sweet price. Cadbury will use debt and tax benefits to finance the purchase. It doesn't expect to see a positive return on capital until 2006.

Acquiring Adams will make Cadbury the second-largest gum seller in the world and the largest in the United States. Such status comes at a price. Standard & Poor's lowered Cadbury's long-term credit rating from A to BBB on account of its increased debt.

With nearly $13 billion in market value, Cadbury has $9 billion in annual soda and confectionery sales, about $1 billion in annual free cash flow (in 2001) and, lately, a 10% profit margin. The stock pays a 3.6% dividend yield, but the last 10 years, the stock price has lagged the S&P 500, PepsiCo(NYSE: PEP), and Coca-Cola(NYSE: KO).

Meanwhile, Pfizer's goal several years ago was to become the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. With its acquisition of Warner-Lambert and now Pharmacia(NYSE: PHA), it will reach that goal. In the process, it helped create a new gum giant.