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, Mackay chairman Andrew Cappello said in the offer document.
At present, more than 60 per cent of Queensland’s sugar milling assets are under foreign ownership, which means wealth generated by local growers goes overseas, he said.