Century-Old South African Sugar Maker Collapses Under Mountain of Debt

Tongaat Hulett Ltd., the 130-year-old South African sugar maker, is being placed in administration after failing to recover from an accounting scandal that exposed a mountain of debt, Bloomberg News reported. The decision was taken after creditors rejected a restructuring plan that would have given the company leeway on some of its outstanding loans and access to 1.5 billion rand ($84 million) needed to keep operations going. Tongaat had repaid about half of the 12 billion rand of debt that emanated from the scandal that erupted in 2019. "On Friday night, we were told that the banks aren’t supportive, which meant that we were not going to get additional liquidity that we needed to keep the business going,” Chief Executive Officer Gavin Hudson said in an interview on Thursday. “The responsible decision was taken to voluntarily place the business into rescue.” Founded in 1892 and taking its name from the uThongathi River in the southeastern KwaZulu-Natal province, Tongaat operates three mills with the capacity to crush more than 4.8 million tons of cane a year, according to its website. The company has 23,000 full-time employees, its latest annual report shows. Read more.