Antitrust: US DOJ Sues To Block Major Sugar Industry Merger

  • General
  • November 25, 2021
  • 27
  • 5 minutes read

Sugar

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is freshly on the antitrust circuit, seeking to block a merger it deems detrimental to consumers. The agency has filed a lawsuit to block the sale of Imperial Sugar, a leading American sugar producer, to rival U.S. Sugar.

The DOJ says the proposed deal will make just two sugar producers account for an “overwhelming majority” of refined sugar sales in the U.S. Southeast, U.S. Sugar being one of the two producers. This concentration of power would make consumers pay more for refined sugar, the DOJ says. 

  • Imperial Sugar is owned by Louis Dreyfus Company, a privately-held agricultural giant based in the Netherlands. The company agreed to sell Imperial to rival U.S. Sugar for the sum of $315mn this March. 
  • U.S. Sugar is another privately-held agricultural giant headquartered in Florida. It can produce up to 850,000 tons of sugar annually at its refinery plant in Florida, and buying Imperial would give it two more sugar plants in Kentucky and Georgia.
  • With the DOJ’s challenge, Imperial’s sale to U.S. Sugar could be in jeopardy. As expected, both companies are entitled to defend their case in court against the DOJ’s, with a judge to make the final decision. 
Under President Joe Biden, the US Justice Department has increasingly flexed its antitrust muscles compared to the previous Trump administration. Recent cases of the DOJ include;
  • Suing to block the merger of insurance giants Aon and  Willis Towers Watson, in which it succeeded. 
  • Suing to block the sale of Simon & Schuster, a book publishing giant, to rival Penguin Random House. The case is in progress.
  • Suing to block an alliance between JetBlue Airways and American Alliance. The case is also in progress.
Sometimes, companies decide to avoid the headache of fighting an antitrust lawsuit from the DOJ and call off their planned merger, e.g., Aon and Willis Towers Watson. It’s unclear if that’ll happen in this sugar industry case.
  • “We will not hesitate to challenge anticompetitive mergers that would harm American consumers and businesses alike,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a press statement concerning Imperial Sugar’s case.

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