The Dept. of Justice is attempting to stop United States Sugar Corp.'s acquisition of rival Imperial Sugar Co. on antitrust grounds, calling the sugar industry "already cozy."
The civil antitrust lawsuit, filed today (Nov. 23) in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, alleges that the transaction would "leave an overwhelming majority of refined sugar sales across the Southeast in the hands of only two producers. As a result, American businesses and consumers would pay more for refined sugar, a significant input for many foods and beverages."
The complaint notes U.S. Sugar operates a large sugar refinery in Florida and sells all of its refined sugar through United Sugars Corp., a marketing cooperative owned by U.S. Sugar and three other refined sugar producers. Imperial Sugar operates its own sugar refinery in Georgia, and sells its refined sugar directly to customers. Imperial Sugar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus Co.
The complaint alleges that United Sugars and Imperial Sugar compete head-to-head to supply refined sugar to customers across the Southeast in states stretching from Mississippi to Delaware. "This competition has resulted in lower prices, better-quality products and more reliable service for customers across the region," according the complaint.
The agency notes American Sugar Refining, known more commonly by its “Domino” brand name, is the only other producer supplying a significant share of refined sugar in the southeastern U.S.
The filing noted that both companies already are multibillion-dollar corporations and are seeking to further consolidate "an already cozy sugar industry. Their merger would eliminate aggressive competition in the supply of refined sugar that leads to lower prices, better quality and more reliable service,” said Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.
“This deal substantially lessens competition at a time when global supply chain challenges already threaten steady access to important commodities and goods," Kanter continued. "The department’s lawsuit seeks to preserve the important competition between U.S. Sugar and Imperial Sugar and protect the resiliency of American domestic sugar supply.”
“Robust antitrust enforcement is an essential pillar of the Justice Department’s commitment to ensuring economic opportunity and fairness for all,” said Attorney General Merrick Garland. “We will not hesitate to challenge anticompetitive mergers that would harm American consumers and businesses alike.”