Refinery explosion continues to affect Imperial Sugar results

By Caroline Scott-Thomas

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Refinery

Imperial Sugar made a loss of $8.9m in Q1 2011 with results continuing to be impacted by the 2008 explosion at its Port Wentworth refinery, but sales were up 31 percent from the prior year period.

Net sales for the quarter ended December 31, 2010 increased to $227.4m from $173.8m for the same period a year earlier, and its $8.9m net loss compared to a net income of $178.1m in Q1 2010. Last year’s Q1 income also included settlement of insurance claims related to the Port Wentworth accident.

The company’s president and CEO John Sheptor said: "A number of important milestones were reached during the past few months as we continue to implement our strategic vision and position the company for the future. We completed the necessary improvements to the Gramercy refinery, and turned over operational control of the facility to Louisiana Sugar Refining, LLC, our one-third owned joint venture, on the first of January. LSR re-initiated refining operations in the existing refinery in early February. Construction of the new LSR refinery remains on track for a summer 2011 start-up."

Imperial Sugar formed a joint venture called Natural Sweet Ventures with stevia firm PureCircle in February 2010, in order to expand its range of value-added natural sweetener offerings. The company said it is pleased with the initial progress on this venture.

Sheptor said: "We are encouraged by the early results of the retail consumer trial initiated in November of Steviacane, the first stevia-sucrose product developed by our 50 percent owned Natural Sweet Ventures. Consumer feedback has been positive and we are planning a wider retail distribution beginning later this year."

He added that refined silo repairs for its Port Wentworth site were completed in January and the silos are due to be back in service early this month.

Thirteen people were killed and nearly 50 were injured in a dust explosion at the Port Wentworth sugar refinery in Georgia in February 2008. The facility produced about nine percent of the United States’ refined sugar supply for the full fiscal year prior to the disaster.

Renewed production at the facility saw Imperial Sugar return to profit in 2010, with a 74 percent increase in net sales from $522.6m to $908m during the year, which the company said was also due to increased refined sugar prices.

“We are anxious to continue the ramp-up in production in Port Wentworth once the silos are on line,”​ Sheptor said.

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