The Maryborough Sugar Factory
The Maryborough Sugar Factory Karleila Thomsen

Sugar group takeover bid

THE world's fifth-largest sugar producer Mitr Phol, which already owns 22% of MSF Sugar Limited, plans to buy out the rest of the company at $4.45 a share - severing a 125-year connection to the region.

But the bidding company, started in Thailand in the 1950s, has moved to reassure workers they would continue to invest in the existing Queensland mills, including Maryborough.

If successful, the buy-out will mean every Australian sugar company except for Mackay Sugar would be controlled by Asian owners.

Mitr Phol would take control of MSF Sugar's four mills at Maryborough, Gordonvale, South Johnstone, and Atherton Tablelands; plus its agricultural land and interests in Sugar Terminals Limited.

A spokesperson for Mitr Phol said if the deal goes ahead, the Thai company planned to keep a head office in Queensland, with hopes of building the business.

"We are committed to growing the Australian workforce, maintaining existing management and keeping Queensland as head office for MSF," the spokesperson said.

Although the company has strong ties with Maryborough, starting operations in 1886, Maryborough Canegrowers manager Trevor Turner said it was almost inevitable it would eventually be bought out by foreign sugar manufacturers.

"The writing has been on the wall for a long time for this to happen," Mr Turner said.

Mr Turner said if the buy-out was successful, he expected it to be business as usual for Maryborough growers and the mill.

"There's very high demand and high sugar prices throughout the world at the moment, and we have those high prices locked in for three years," he said.

"So I don't believe it will affect the mill here - but it is still early days." MSF Sugar chairman James Jackson said the bid was a strong endorsement of the company, and if successful, could herald a bright future for the industry.

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