Sugar Producers From Suedzucker to Nordzucker Visited by EU

Suedzucker AG and Nordzucker AG, Europe’s biggest sugar producers, were among makers of the sweetener visited by European Union antitrust officials.

Officials from the 27-nation bloc were at Suedzucker’s offices at the end of April and it doesn’t expect “any implications” from the visit, Nikolai Baltruschat, managing director of investor relations, said by phone from Mannheim, Germany. Nordzucker was also visited, said Klaus D. Schumacher, a spokesman for the Braunschweig, Germany-based company.

The EU’s antitrust commissioner Joaquin Almunia said EU officials carried out “surprise inspections” last month at white sugar producers in several member states. Baltruschat and Schumacher declined to provide details of the visit.

The European Commission, the bloc’s regulatory arm, proposed boosting domestic supplies by 1.2 million metric tons in November. White sugar prices in the bloc climbed to an average 738 euros ($957) a ton in January, the highest since at least 2006. In February, they were 725 euros a ton, almost double futures traded in London.

Sugar producers in the EU have been linking up as the bloc cut production quotas, with France’s Cristal Union buying Groupe Vermandoise last year, Nordzucker acquiring Danisco Sugar AS in 2009 and British Sugar Plc buying the sugar unit of Ebro Foods SA in 2008. British Sugar is owned by Associated British Foods Plc in London.

Biggest Companies

Tate & Lyle Sugars said it wasn’t visited by EU officials, according to Gerald Mason, vice president of EU affairs at the refining company, owned by American Sugar Refining Inc. in Yonkers, New York. The seven biggest sugar companies in Europe have 81 percent of the bloc’s market share, Mason said at a conference in Geneva last month.

The EU’s four largest sugar producers, Suedzucker, Nordzucker, British Sugar and Tereos, control about 63 percent of production in the bloc, according to a report last year by the French antitrust authority.

Spokespeople Gerard Benedetti and Elise Demaret at Tereos, France’s largest sugar maker, weren’t immediately available and didn’t respond to e-mailed questions, while spokeswoman Nathalie Franzoni at Cristal Union, the country’s second-biggest producer, didn’t immediately respond to a voice-mail message and e-mail seeking comment.

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