Ardent flour merger closer to completion with mill sale

Reuters –– U.S. food and grain-handling companies ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS have moved closer to sealing a deal to merge their North American flour mill operations by agreeing to sell four mills to a Japanese company.

Miller Milling Co., a U.S.-based unit of Tokyo-based Nisshin Flour Milling, will buy the four U.S. mills, the companies said Thursday.

Divesting the operations was part of the companies’ plans to complete the merger and create a company called Ardent Mills, which would control a third of the U.S. flour market.

Completion of the deal has taken longer than expected due to an investigation by the U.S. Justice Department’s antitrust division.

Under the deal, ConAgra is joining forces with Horizon Milling — a joint operation between Cargill and CHS that already is the largest flour miller in the U.S. The deal was first made public in March 2013 and was initially expected to close late last year.

Canadian assets joining Ardent are to include Horizon’s former Robin Hood flour mills in Montreal and Saskatoon, its former Robin Hood dry baking mix plants at Burlington, Ont. and Saskatoon, and its product development facility at Burlington — plus its plans to build another flour mill at Guelph, Ont.

The flour mills going to Nisshin as per Thursday’s announcement are Horizon’s facility in Los Angeles and ConAgra’s facilities in Oakland, California; Saginaw, Texas; and New Prague, Minnesota.

— Reporting for Reuters by Josephine Mason in New York. Includes files from Network staff.

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