WASHINGTON (AP) – A federal judge has rejected the Justice Department’s bid to block a major United States (US) sugar manufacturer from acquiring its rival, clearing the way for the acquisition to proceed.
The ruling, handed down by a federal judge in Wilmington, Delaware, comes months after the Justice Department sued to try to halt the deal between US Sugar and Imperial Sugar Company, one of the largest sugar refiners in the nation. The government had argued that allowing the acquisition to go through would be harmful to consumers and anticompetitive.
US Sugar argued that the acquisition will increase production and distribution of refined sugar and provide a more secure supply.
The ruling was a blow for the Justice Department as it pushes forward with aggressive enforcement of federal antitrust laws that officials saID aim to ensure a fair and competitive market. The Justice Department could appeal the decision and said it was reviewing the judge’s ruling.
“We are disappointed in the court’s decision not to block this merger, which would combine the world’s largest sugar cane refiner with one of its primary competitors in the Southeastern us and increase reliance on foreign imports,” Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Kanter said.
“Further consolidation in the market for this important kitchen staple will have real-world consequences for millions of Americans.”
US Sugar said in a statement it was “pleased that the court ruling will allow our acquisition of Imperial Sugar to proceed as planned, enabling us to increase our sugar production, enhance the local Georgia economy and benefit our employees and customers.”
The Justice Department said US Sugar, which operates a large refinery in Florida, sells its sugar through a marketing cooperative known as the 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 that it would return Imperial Sugar to all-American ownership. Imperial Sugar is a subsidiary of Louis Dreyfus Company, which is headquartered in the Netherlands.