Tate & Lyle to close sucralose plant in Singapore

by Jeff Gelski
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LONDON — Closing a sucralose plant in Singapore and substantially exiting the Bulk Ingredients business in Europe make up a company realignment announced by London-based Tate & Lyle, P.L.C. on April 21. Tate & Lyle plans to consolidate sucralose production in a plant in McIntosh, Ala.

In Europe, Tate & Lyle and Archer Daniels Co. have agreed to realign their Eaststarch corn wet milling joint venture. Tate & Lyle will acquire full ownership of a specialty-focused plant in Slovakia and exit predominantly bulk ingredients plants in Bulgaria, Turkey and Hungary. Tate & Lyle should receive €240 million ($258.3 million) in cash upon completion of the European transaction.

The Singapore sucralose facility opened in 2007. A phased transfer of production to McIntosh from Singapore will take place over the next 12 months. Tate & Lyle expects to invest about £18 million ($26.9 million), mainly related to the transfer of equipment, to consolidate production in McIntosh, which materially should lower the manufacturing cost base for sucralose.

“The key issue in the (sucralose) market is not demand but supply,” said Javed Ahmed, chief executive officer of Tate & Lyle. “There has been a substantial increase in capacity in the market, particularly over the past two years. Capacity is now well in excess of demand. This supply-demand imbalance has led to a significant change in industry behavior and economics over the last 18 months. We don’t expect this to change materially in the medium term.

“This change in industry behavior has had a significant impact on the profitability of our sucralose business, with profits down 75% from £62 million in the 2014 financial year to around £16 million in the 2015 financial year.”

The facilities in Singapore and McIntosh are about the same size, he said.

“Sucralose is an energy-intensive process, and the cost of energy we use at the facility in Singapore has risen significantly over the past five years,” Mr. Ahmed said. “The cost of energy at our Singapore facility is now nearly three times higher than at McIntosh, and other production costs are also lower at McIntosh. No decision to close a plant is taken lightly. The Singapore facility has provided strong returns to the investors over its life cycle, which have been well in excess of our cost of capital.”

Even after the cash closure costs, the Singapore facility will have delivered an internal rate of return of more than 20%, said Nick Hampton, chief financial officer of Tate & Lyle.

Tate & Lyle will keep its regional head office and applications center for Asia Pacific in Singapore. Tate & Lyle expects its Splenda sucralose business to about break even in the year ending March 31, 2016, and to return to modest profitability in the year ending March 31, 2017.

As a result of the realignment in Europe, the companywide proportion of Tate & Lyle’s adjusted operating profit from its Specialty Food Ingredients business will increase to 55% from 50%. Specialty Food Ingredients effectively will make up all the profit in Europe.

“While the realignment results in some short-term earnings dilution, it further increases our focus on specialty food ingredients and reduces our presence in bulk ingredients, which now become a predominantly North American business,” Mr. Ahmed said.

Tate & Lyle substantially will exit from bulk sweeteners in Europe before the reform of the European Union sugar regime in 2017.

“Our clear strategy since 2010 has been to invest for growth in specialty food ingredients,” Mr. Ahmed said. “However, the reform of the European sugar regime brings with it potential for significant capital investment in bulk sweeteners, such as isoglucose. The realignment of the joint venture at this time enables us to realize good value from our European bulk ingredients’ assets ahead of a decision on capital investment being required.”

Eaststarch C.V. was formed in 1992. The joint venture currently owns and operates three corn wet mills in Slovenia, Bulgaria and Turkey and has a 50% equity share in a corn wet mill in Hungary. Tate & Lyle currently has a 50% share in Eaststarch, which had adjusted operating profit of £107 million and gross assets of £518 million in the year ended March 31, 2014. Tate & Lyle anticipates the ongoing dilution in earnings from the Eaststarch realignment will be about 3 pence per share, Mr. Hampton said.

Tate & Lyle will continue to supply crystalline fructose, a specialty sweetener, to European customers. Tate & Lyle will appoint Chicago-based ADM as the exclusive agent for bulk ingredients produced from the plant in Slovakia, which Tate & Lyle will fully acquire, and from Tate & Lyle’s wholly-owned corn wet mill in The Netherlands.

Mr. Hampton said the planned actions in Europe combined with the closing of the Singapore sucralose facility will reduce debt by about £90 million to £100 million.
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