Belfast Telegraph

Tate & Lyle sells off sugar refining arm

By Russell Lynch

Tate & Lyle is set to sever historic links with the sugar industry stretching back more than 130 years after agreeing to sell its European refining business to a US firm.

The £211m sale to American Sugar Refining (ASR) includes Tate's Golden Syrup factory in London and a perpetual worldwide licence to use the famous brand name.

The fall of another well-known British business into foreign ownership comes months after Dairy Milk maker Cadbury was bought by US food giant Kraft.

Chief executive Javed Ahmed said sugar refining had "a long and proud history" in the firm, but the company was now focusing on higher-margin products such as sweeteners, starch and ethanol.

Tate & Lyle's sugars business traces its roots back to 1878 when the Thames refinery opened in Silvertown, east London, by founder Henry Tate after he bought up the rights to the newly invented sugar cube.

Abram Lyle, who opened his own refinery nearby in 1883, first put Golden Syrup into its famous green and gold tins in 1885 and proved an instant success.

The two firms eventually merged in 1921 to form Tate & Lyle, refining half of the country's sugar. It was a founder member of the FT-30 Index and is one of only two of the original companies still listed today.

ASR is adding the European operations to the US and Canadian refining businesses it bought in 2001 and 2007. A spokesman said there would be no job losses as a result of the deal.

Co-president Luis Fernandez said yesterday: "We recognise the importance and history of the Tate & Lyle sugar brand and are proud to add it to our existing brand portfolio."

Tate & Lyle has endured a run of profits warnings in recent years due to factors such as the weak US dollar, lower sugar prices after EU reforms and higher European corn costs. It has concentrated on its "value added business" which includes ingredients for food such as soups, sauces and dressings.

The businesses falling into US hands - which also include its operations in Portugal and a consulting arm - generated revenues of £689m in the year to March and underlying profits of £14m, employing around 700 staff.