A US court has rejected the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s attempt to prevent US Sugar from acquiring local peer Imperial Sugar.

US Sugar said with the approval granted by a district court in Delaware it plans to move forward as quickly as possible to “consummate the transaction”.

The DoJ filed a civil anti-trust lawsuit to try to block the deal last November, eight months after it was announced. It claimed the planned transaction – which would see US Sugar acquire Imperial Sugar from Netherlands-based agri-food heavyweight Louis Dreyfus Co. – would leave an overwhelming majority of refined sugar sales across the south-east of the US in the hands of just two producers.

Assistant attorney general Jonathan Kanter of the DoJ’s Antitrust Division said at the time: “US Sugar and Imperial Sugar are already multi-billion-dollar corporations and are seeking to further consolidate an already cosy 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.”

However, following a four-day bench trial earlier this year, US District Judge Maryellen Noreika has now issued a judgement “in favour of defendants [US Sugar et al] and against plaintiff [DOJ]”.

The court, which heard from witnesses including the United States Department of Agriculture’s chief economist, rejected the DoJ’s claim the transaction would substantially lessen competition.

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By GlobalData

Robert Buker, Jr., US Sugar’s president and CEO, said. “The people of US Sugar are pleased that the court’s favourable ruling will allow our acquisition of Imperial Sugar, including the Savannah Refinery, to go forward.”

He added: “We look forward to proceeding as planned with this acquisition, which will enable us to increase our domestic sugar production, enhance the local Georgia economy, decrease US reliance on foreign imports of sugar, and benefit farmers, customers and consumers across the country.”

Buker said US Sugar intends to invest in upgrading Imperial’s Savannah Refinery and operations and plans to retain the employees in that facility.

US Sugar farms more than 240,000 acres of farmland in its domestic market. Its facility in Clewiston, Florida, is the world’s largest vertically integrated sugar cane milling and refining operation – capable of processing 42,000 tons of sugar cane per day.