DISTRIBUTOR and marketer Queensland Sugar has decided to sell its 19.9 per cent stake in Tully Sugar to takeover contender Mackay Sugar for $43 a share, sparking a fresh bidding war from two other interested parties, US giant Bunge and China’s state-owned Cofco.
The news came as Cofco announced the Foreign Investment Review Board had approved its deal to buy a 19.9 per cent stake in Tully and its decision to increase the holding.
On Friday, Mackay upgraded its offer for Tully by $2 to $43 a share (the same price offered by Bunge and Cofco), valuing Tully at $132.9 million.
The combined Queensland Sugar/Mackay holding in Tully now totals almost 30 per cent.
Cofco has a precommitment for a 19.9 per cent stake and Bunge has a small stake.
Mackay’s bid is backed by French-based commodity trader Louis Dreyfus, which has agreed to provide debt funding of up to $102m.
Tully is one of the last independent, grower-owned sugar mills in Australia and also owns residential properties in far north Queensland and other assets.
Mackay is the country’s second-biggest sugar milling company, owning three mills and a refinery in Queensland.
MACKAY Sugar has formally lodged its $41 a share bid for Tully Sugar, even though US-based agribusiness giant Bunge and China’s state-owned Cofco have already revised their bids higher to $43 a share valuing Tully at $132.9 million.
Mackay’s bid is backed by French-based commodity trader Louis Dreyfus, which has agreed to provide debt funding of up to $102 million to help fund the offer.
Mackay is Australia’s second largest sugar milling company, operating three mills, a refinery, and producing molasses and electricity on the Queensland central coast south of Tully.
At stake is the ownership of one of the last independent grower-owned sugar mills in Australia and other assets including residential properties in the Far North Queensland town.
The Tully mill, whose operation is highly regarded in the industry, has a crushing capacity of 2.5 million tonnes of cane a year and produced 315,000 tonnes of raw sugar in 2002, before production started falling as a result of a series of poor crop seasons.
“By accepting Mackay Sugar’s offer, you are ensuring Tully Sugar’s business remains in Australian hands, managed by a professional grower-controlled company” that has a proven track record of working with growers to deliver higher prices and a more secure and diversified business while investing in the industry,
Although its agribusiness sector continued its recovery in the first quarter, Alexander & Baldwin’s usual profit center, Matson Navigation Co., lost money, and the company reported a thin profit of $5.2 million, or 12 cents per share, Tuesday.
President Stanley Kuriyama said Matson couldn’t adjust its fuel surcharges fast enough to keep up with soaring oil prices.
Agribusiness, primarily Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., had an operating profit of $2.6 million, compared with a loss of $1.1 million in the first quarter of 2010.
It is difficult to compare quarter-to-quarter results for HC&S, since in the first quarter of 2010 the Puunene mill shut down for an extended overhaul and harvesting did not begin until the second quarter. But Kuriyama pointed out that the company’s agriculture operation has now experienced four straight quarters of profitability, following years of serious losses.
It is also difficult to compare quarter-to-quarter changes at Matson, because it signed a significant connecting carrier agreement with a large international carrier and opened a second service to China. Both increased business, but the startup costs for the second “string” of voyages to China resulted in a loss.
Hawaii container traffic was up to 34,000, from 31,400 the year before, partly indicating expansion in the island economy.
On May 26, 2009, Robert Lustig gave a lecture called “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” which was posted on YouTube the following July. Since then, it has been viewed well over 800,000 times, gaining new viewers at a rate of about 50,000 per month, fairly remarkable numbers for a 90-minute discussion of the nuances of fructose biochemistry and human physiology.
Lustig is a specialist on pediatric hormone disorders and the leading expert in childhood obesity at the University of California, San Francisco, School of Medicine, which is one of the best medical schools in the country. He published his first paper on childhood obesity a dozen years ago, and he has been treating patients and doing research on the disorder ever since.
The viral success of his lecture, though, has little to do with Lustig’s impressive credentials and far more with the persuasive case he makes that sugar is a “toxin” or a “poison,” terms he uses together 13 times through the course of the lecture, in addition to the five references to sugar as merely “evil.” And by “sugar,” Lustig means not only the white granulated stuff that we put in coffee and sprinkle on cereal — technically known as sucrose — but also high-fructose corn syrup, which has already become without Lustig’s help what he calls “the most demonized additive known to man.”
It doesn’t hurt Lustig’s cause that he is a compelling public speaker.
Alexander & Baldwin Inc. earnings were about flat in the last three months of 2010, but bigger gains earlier in the year enabled the diversified Honolulu-based company to more than double its full-year profit.
A&B reported 2010 net income of $92.1 million, up from $44.2 million the year before.
Fourth-quarter net income was $20.2 million, barely up from $20.1 million in the same quarter in 2009.
Revenue in the fourth quarter totaled $461.4 million, compared with $362.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Full-year revenue totaled $1.6 billion, up from $1.4 billion in 2009.
A&B said its profit was principally driven by ocean cargo transportation subsidiary Matson Navigation Co. operations in China, real estate sales and a turnaround in its sugar business on Maui.
A judge has ruled in favor of a lender in a foreclosure suit on a former Pacific Northwest logger who attempted to turn the former Haina sugar mill in Honokaa into a sawmill.
Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara entered judgment Dec. 8 against Haina Properties LLC and Robert J. Marr, known as “Barefoot Bob.” The ruling clears the way for a liquidation sale of the mill property.
Haina Mill Mortgage Lender LLC, a Delaware limited liability -company, filed the foreclosure suit in June 2009, claiming that Haina Properties and Marr — manager of Haina Properties and owner of the 49-acre mill property — defaulted on a $4.785 million loan taken out Sept. 27, 2007, plus an additional $379,000 borrowed May 2, 2008.
All told, Marr owes almost $6.2 million to Haina Mill Mortgage Lender, counting principal, interest, fees, taxes and expenses.
Also named as defendants in the suit were Kamehameha Schools and Hamakua Land Partnership LLP as owner and lessee, respectively, of Standard Oil Road, the access road to the mill. In addition, the county was named for property tax purposes.
Marr bought the 49-acre mill property for $3.3 million in October 2007. He told area residents that the mill — which closed as a sugar mill in 1994 — would provide 110 jobs paying $12 to $25 an hour, and would run in an environmentally-responsible manner.
The rain came down. The price went up, and Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co. finished the year with a much improved crop.
The final raw sugar shipment was loaded at Kahului Harbor’s Pier One on Wednesday and Thursday.
The harvest was just shy of 172,000 tons, much better than the 127,000 tons in 2009, but well short of the 200,000 tons the plantation can make in a good year.
In a telephone interview from New York on Thursday, HC&S General Manager Chris Benjamin said that although there is still “a ways to go,” the improved crop and better world prices take the immediate pressure off the plantation.
A year ago, after experiencing heavy losses attributed to a long drought, the directors of Alexander & Baldwin took a hard look at HC&S. The 37,000-acre plantation was the origin of the A&B conglomerate, but today it accounts for only about 7 percent of revenues.
The board approved continuation of the business only until the end of this year, pending improved results.
Financial results won’t be published until next year, but Benjamin said he believes that the board is already satisfied that the operation is on the right track.
At this week’s price of nearly 40 cents per pound of raw sugar (in New York), the crop would be worth more than $130 million, not counting molasses and electricity byproduct revenue, plus the premium for the part of the crop sold as specialty sugars.
Sugar for March delivery closed at 28.45 cents per pound on Monday — a little off its above-30-cent peak struck last month, but still double its May 2010 low.
And it looks like sugar may have higher to climb.
Global supplies of sugar are projected to lag worldwide demand this year for the third year running. According to a new report by Czarnikow Group, a London-based sugar and biofuel broker, the supply/demand deficit could run as high as 2.8 million metric tons from September 2010 to September 2011.
Of course, when you consider that total supply for 2010/11 is expected to rise to 168.4 million tons from last year’s 157.4 million, that deficit doesn’t seem like a huge gap. And generally, if sugar becomes too expensive to use, end-consumers can just switch to cheaper sweeteners, like corn-based syrups.
Still, one can make the argument that sugar should be higher, especially considering that growing consumption is expected in emerging markets like China, where we’ve yet to hit the limit of their commodity appetite. Plus, over the past few years, we’ve seen drawdowns in world inventories of the sweet stuff, a fact that helped boost prices up to ever-higher highs in 2007/08 and 2008/09.
The supply shortfall springs from poor growing weather we saw earlier this year. Remember that Brazilian bumper crop we talked about back in August? Yeah, not so much. Brazil, the world’s largest producer of sugar, saw sugar cane production declines from a hotter summer than usual, while similar drought conditions stunted Russian beet production and South African cane yields. Meanwhile, in Indonesia and Australia, the sugar cane harvest withered under a deluge of super-wet weather.
By A&B spokesperson Meredith Ching
This is my understanding of the situation you have inquired about. On October 23, HC&S conducted an aerial application of an herbicide, Clean Amine, on its Field 212, located along Hana Highway, just west of Paia town. We were attempting to eliminate a noxious weed, castor bean, from the field, as it shades out the crop and depresses sugar yields. Aerial herbicide application was required because the 16-month old cane is too dense to allow access for ground spraying, and the weed height exceeded the canopy of the cane.
The active ingredient in Clean Amine is 2,4-D, which is among the most widely used weed control chemicals in the world and is present in a number of substances labeled for residential use. For more information about 2,4-D, refer to http://www.24d.org. This product is labeled for aerial application, and applications were made in compliance with the pesticide label. The mix used on Field 212 was a very diluted formulation, consisting of about 2% of 2, 4-D by weight.
We fully appreciate that the helicopter’s presence was likely startling for the residents. By design, they fly very low when applying the agricultural substances, for the very reason of minimizing drift and applying the substances most directly on the plants. Further, with this type of application of Clean Amine, the substance is only released when directly over the targeted weeds (which are very visible above the cane).
Further, when HC&S undertakes aerial applications on its fields, we generally do so in the morning when wind speeds are lower and more predictable; gusts and variable winds typically occur later in the day. Wind characteristics are an important factor for aerial applications, and one that HC&S carefully considers prior to any application. A spotter goes along on all aerial applications, monitors and records wind speeds and directions, and watches for any visual signs of drift so that prompt action can be taken to address it.