"Is she gonna put sugar on my tongue? Is she gonna gimme gimme gimme some?"
-- Talking Heads, "Sugar on My Tongue"
Nothing cuts through the corporate BS about "creating shareholder value" like an unsolicited offer to buy out a company. Imperial Sugar
On the surface, there's nothing too unusual going on here. Schultze owns about 13% of the stock (depending upon which calculations you use). The stock has had a rough go of it because the sugar market hasn't been great, and management doesn't seem particularly eager to sell out. In fact, it appears as though Schultze made a similar offer back in early February -- an offer that management somehow forgot to mention to its shareholders.
Not surprisingly, Schultze is also taking issue with the company's poison-pill provision. While corporate managements (including Imperial) refer to these plans as "shareholder rights" provisions, that's a Jedi mind trick -- the fact is that these plans are overwhelmingly "management rights" provisions that typically allow managers and directors to negotiate fat severance packages before vetting a buyout.
But wait, there's more!
Schultze was able to get a proxy vote on whether the board should scrap the poison pill, and, according to Schultze, shareholders approved that motion. Yet here we all are, more than three months later, and the board hasn't done away with the provision. And -- oh, by the way -- the board and management together own an underwhelming 7.5% of the stock outstanding. Now that's responsive management, eh?
Imperial Sugar looks to this Fool to be the sort of company that would benefit from another stint of private ownership. The company has been in business for quite some time, but the financial results over the past couple of years have been so-so -- despite its well-known brands like Imperial, Dixie Crystals, and Holly. Of course, the advent of Splenda by competing sugar firm Tate & Lyle (OTC BB: TATYY) hasn't helped, nor has the commodity sugar market or the ongoing tariff policies of the U.S. regarding sugar.
If Schultze is able to land this fish, though, the future could be more interesting. According to some commodity mavens whom I know and respect, sugar is trading too cheap these days. What's more, many countries are mandating greater ethanol usage, and if the production of sugar-derived ethanol steps up, Imperial might find itself able to charge more for its little crystals of sweetness. If that all pans out (and that's an admittedly big "if"), I'm not sure that $17 per share is a great price for shareholders.
One way or another, this battle will be interesting. The question remains, though, whether anybody is actually looking out for the best interests of John Q. Shareholder.
Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).