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Sugar properties in four states apparently changing hands

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Sugar properties in four states apparently changing hands
Sugar properties in four states apparently changing hands

Associated Press BILLINGS - The Rocky Mountain Sugar Growers Cooperative and Tate & Lyle North American Sugars announced last week the pending sale of operations in four states, including Montana.

The cooperative is made up of five grower groups in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska.

The tentative agreement involves the sale of six Western Sugar Co. factories in Billings, Lovell, Wyo., Greeley and Fort Morgan, Colo., and Scottsbluff and Bayard, Neb.

The nonbinding agreement calls for closing the sale over the next three to six months, contingent upon financing and grower investment.

Rick Dorn of Hardin, president of the cooperative formed this summer, said, "We are pleased that Tate & Lyle has provided the opportunity to the growers to acquire Western Sugar. This will allow the growers to better control the sugar beet industry in their areas and to receive increased profits for approximately 1,110 family farms in the growing areas."

Dorn said the price was one growers could work with.

"We are pleased with the numbers," he said. "They are at the low end of this industry's price."

Neither side put a price tag on the grower buyout. Sugar industry analysts said the book value of the Western properties is between $150 million and $160 million.

The Billings Gazette said it was told the price for Western Sugar's assets was set at $78 million or about half of the book value.

Randon Wilson, a Salt Lake attorney, who handled the transfer of the Amalgamated Sugar Co. to the Snake River Cooperative in Idaho several years ago, said the $78 million price was correct, the Gazette said.

Wilson is assisting the Western growers in their effort to buy the company.

Western Sugar Co. has 185,000 acres of beets under contract in the four states. It has 600 employees. It was formed in 1985 when Tate & Lyle, based in London, bought the six plants from the bankrupt Great Western Sugar Co., then owned by the Hunt brothers of Dallas.

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