By Diane Bartz
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Friday ruled in favor of the U.S. sugar company’s plans to buy rival Imperial Sugar Co., rejecting the Justice Department’s argument that the proposed deal would raise the price of sugar for households as well as the prices of food and soda. makers.
The Department of Justice said in a lawsuit filed last November that the $315 million deal would award about 75% of refined sugar sales in the southeastern United States to American Sugar Company, which owns and is a member of a cooperative with three other companies, and American Sugar Refining, which sells its products. under the Domino brand.
US Sugar said in a statement it was “delighted” with the decision.
The Justice Department, which can appeal the loss, said it was reviewing its options and was “disappointed”.
Judge Marilyn Norica of the US District Court for Delaware issued the sealed advisory and said a revised version would be available.
The government, which described the US Sugar Company as “the world’s largest vertically integrated milling and refining of cane sugar,” argued that the deal would drive up sugar prices in the southeastern US, saying the two companies often compete to win contracts from companies that make drinks and snacks. and other prepared foods.
The companies argued that sugar was easy to transport so confining the market to the Southeast was a mistake. They also argued that Imperial is a high-priced competitor that buys raw sugar for refining and does not compete for lower prices.
They also argued that the USDA monitors sugar prices and can increase imports if needed to address the price hike.