Port Wentworth Rebuild on Track, Imperial Sugar CEO Says

Imperial Sugar Company President and CEO John Sheptor released his company's latest update today on the rebuilding of the Port Wentworth, Ga., refinery. The plant was heavily damaged by a dust explosion and ensuing fire.

The company through March 31, 2009, had spent about $54 million of the estimated $200 million to $220 million of construction costs it will expend. Its property insurance policy provides coverage for construction replacement cost, business interruption, and certain payroll and other costs; Imperial said it received an additional $35 million advance under the property insurance policy in March 2009 and has received a total of $160 million to date unidentified with any specific coverage under the policy.

Production of granulated bulk sugar at the mill should begin in late May, and the mill's packaging capabilities should be completely restored by the fall of 2009. "The rebuild project continues to progress nicely, and we are on track to begin bulk sugar production in late May," Sheptor said. "Our employees are enthusiastic about the project, and we are working closely with our customers and suppliers to coordinate the restart of the refinery. Discussions with representatives of our insurance companies continue productively, and an additional $35 million of advances were received in March."

Four months ago, on Dec. 15, 2008, the company reported a fourth quarter 2008 loss from continuing operations of $5.4 million, including a pre-tax charge of $10 million related to the refinery explosion. Sheptor at that time called the planned new Port Wentworth facility "state of the art" and said it "will operate more efficiently and reliably while offering enhanced product quality and service."

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