Indiana fertilizer plant not seeking state incentives

A Pakistani-backed company planning to build a $2.6 billion fertilizer plant in southwestern Indiana announced Thursday it has withdrawn its request for state economic incentives.

Midwest Fertilizer Co. said it will devote its efforts to supporting Posey County's bid to win state funding for a bypass around Mount Vernon, an Ohio River city 20 miles west of Evansville.

Midwest Fertilizer President and CEO Mike Chorlton said in a news release that "the incentives offered by Posey County are critically important to making this project a reality. As a result, Midwest Fertilizer has withdrawn its request with the Indiana Economic Development Corporation for state incentives which were modest relative to the size of the project."

Midwest Fertilizer plans to break ground on the plant this quarter at a 219-acre site near the river and have the plant fully operational in 2018, The Evansville Courier & Press reported.

Gov. Mike Pence announced last April the state was reopening talks on economic incentives for Midwest Fertilizer, whose lead investor is Pakistan-based Fatima Group. Earlier, Pence had withdrawn state support, citing concerns that U.S. military officials had about fertilizer made by Fatima Group being used in explosives in Afghanistan. However, Pence said in April that a review by the U.S. Department of Defense found the project's developers have been cooperating with the government.

Officials at the Mount Vernon plant have said they plan to produce urea ammonium nitrate, a fertilizer that is not used in explosives.

An Indiana Economic Development Corp. spokeswoman had no immediate comment on Midwest Fertilizer's announcement.

By April, Midwest Fertilizer plans to offer bonds for the $2.6 billion project, said Chorlton. The county’s economic development agency has about $1.3 billion of notes out for the project that must be redeemed by April 2.

“We’re definitely planning to move forward on a long-term deal,” Chorlton said in a telephone interview. “We’re trying to get it done before April 2.”

He declined to disclose other details about the borrowing plan.

If the securities are rated speculative grade, it would be the second-largest junk deal ever in the $3.6 trillion municipal market, data compiled by Bloomberg show. It would eclipse a $1.2 billion offering for a fertilizer facility in Iowa, ranked three steps below investment grade.

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