CHS to buy 16 Agrium retail, anhydrous outlets

Corrected, March 17 — U.S. farm co-op giant CHS Inc. is set to expand further into the Prairie ag input retail market as the buyer of 16 crop retail and fertilizer outlets up for mandatory sale.

CHS announced Monday it will buy, for an undisclosed sum, the 16 outlets for which fertilizer and ag retail firm Agrium has been required since last September to find a new owner.

Canada’s Competition Bureau last September chose seven retail outlets and nine anhydrous ammonia businesses — operated either by Agrium’s CPS division or by Viterra — for mandatory divestiture. The sales were a condition attached to the bureau’s approval of Agrium’s takeover of 210 Viterra ag retail outlets. [Related story]

However, CHS’s purchase goes over and above the bureau’s requirements, by including the retail store attached to one of the anhydrous businesses, at Craddock, Alta.

Thus, CHS will get the former Viterra retail stores at Edenwold, Sask. and Alix, Alliance, Craddock and Vauxhall, Alta., plus the Agrium CPS stores at Bow Island, Eaglesham and Lacombe, Alta.

CHS also gets the Agrium CPS anhydrous businesses at Canora, Kinistino, North Battleford, Prince Albert and Yorkton, Sask., and the former Viterra anhydrous businesses at Camrose, Craddock and Medicine Hat, Alta. and at Cudworth, Sask.

According to the Competition Bureau’s release Monday, CHS will also get the anhydrous ammonia “bullet tank” for storage at the Medicine Hat site.

The deal is expected to close by about April 1, CHS said.

“We look forward to expanding our ability to serve farmers and ranchers in Canada, and to being a strong partner in their communities,” said John McEnroe, executive vice-president for CHS’s Country Operations division, which will operate the Prairie retail sites.

CHS noted the newly-acquired businesses will be able to take advantage of a new 42,000-ton fertilizer plant in the “final stages” of construction at Shelby, Montana, about 160 km southeast of Lethbridge, Alta.

CHS has also previously said it’s “pursuing” a potential major nitrogen fertilizer manufacturing plant project at Spiritwood, N.D., about 140 km west of Fargo.

CHS’s holdings in Canada already include the former Robin Hood flour mills owned by Horizon Milling, its joint flour milling venture with Cargill; a grain marketing office opened in 2012 in Winnipeg; and its Canadian energy business, headquartered in Calgary. The Horizon Milling business is set to merge into Ardent Mills, a joint venture with ConAgra Foods’ flour milling arm.

Minnesota-based CHS’s Country Operations arm in 2012 made its first play in the Prairie ag retail market by taking over the Alberta retail operations of DynAgra Corp., which has outlets at Beiseker, Standard, Rolling Hills and Carseland. Those outlets now operate under the “CHS DynAgra” banner.

The division already manages about 70 farm retail business units with over 400 outlets in 15 states, offering inputs, fuel, grain marketing services and other farm supplies. — Network

CORRECTION, March 17: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the purchase of the Agrium outlets would be CHS’s first entry in the Canadian ag retail market. We regret the error.

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