Imperial Sugar allows Wholesome option to expire

by Eric Schroeder
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SUGAR LAND, TEXAS — Imperial Sugar Co. said it will not exercise its option to acquire a 50% equity interest in Wholesome Sweeteners, Inc. from its partner in the joint venture. Imperial Sugar was granted the option to acquire 100% ownership of Wholesome in July 2008, but the option expires today.

Wholesome Sweeteners was formed as a joint venture in 2001 between Imperial and Edward Billington & Son, a U.K.-based agriculture and food company.

“The company’s decision not to purchase the remaining 50% of Wholesome at this time through the exercise of the option was based on a number of strategic and other relevant considerations,” said John Sheptor, chief executive officer of Imperial Sugar. “We have been pleased with the favorable trends in the growth and profitability of Wholesome’s business, and continue to be optimistic about Wholesome’s future prospects. The company remains committed to its sweeteners strategy.”

As part of the Imperial Sugar-Wholesome joint venture, if, after the option has expired, a third party agrees to pay a specified minimum price for 100% of Wholesome, subject to certain conditions, both Imperial Sugar and its joint venture partner may be required to sell their stake in such a sale.

“Imperial will work with our joint venture partner in the manner contemplated by our joint venture agreement, but we have left open the possibility of discussing with our partner a negotiated sale or purchase of our respective equity interests in Wholesome,” Mr. Sheptor said. “Meanwhile, we will continue to work with our joint venture partner and Wholesome management on improving and expanding this exciting business.”

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