WASHINGTON– A federal judge has rejected the Justice Department’s offer to block a major U.S. sugar maker from acquiring its rival, clearing the way for the acquisition to proceed.
The ruling, issued Friday by a federal judge in Wilmington, Delaware, comes months after the Justice Department filed a lawsuit in an attempt to end the deal between US Sugar and Imperial Sugar Company, one of the largest sugar refiners in the country. The government had argued that allowing the takeover would be harmful to consumers and anti-competitive.
US Sugar argued that the acquisition will increase production and distribution of refined sugar and provide a more secure supply.
The decision was a blow to the Justice Department as it continues to aggressively enforce federal antitrust laws that officials say are aimed at ensuring a fair and competitive marketplace. The Justice Department could appeal the decision and said it was reviewing the judge’s decision.
“We are disappointed with the court’s decision not to block this merger, which would combine the world’s largest sugar cane refiner with one of its main competitors in the southeastern United States and increase dependence on foreign imports,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said. “Continued market consolidation of this important kitchen staple will have real-world consequences for millions of Americans.”
US Sugar said in a statement that it was “pleased that today’s court decision allows our acquisition of Imperial Sugar to proceed as planned, allowing us to increase our sugar production, improve the local Georgia economy and to benefit our employees and customers.”
The Justice Department said US Sugar, which operates a large refinery in Florida, sells all of its sugar through a marketing cooperative known as United Sugars Corporation. Imperial Sugar operates a refinery in Savannah, Georgia, and a sugar transfer and liquidation facility in Ludlow, Kentucky.
The companies announced the acquisition in March, saying it would return Imperial Sugar to fully American ownership. Imperial Sugar is a subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus Company, headquartered in the Netherlands. The Department of Justice said Imperial Sugar’s revenue was over $700 million in 2020.