ConAgra's proposed flour milling joint venture to close later than expected

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Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2013 12:00 am

ConAgra Foods’ proposed flour milling joint venture will close later than first expected.

The Ardent Mills venture is now expected to close in the first three months of the 2014 calendar year rather than in late 2013, the Omaha food manufacturer said in a Monday regulatory filing. ConAgra said it revised the timeline because of “the ongoing regulatory review process and discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice.”

The Justice Department’s antitrust division said in July it is investigating the proposed joint venture. The venture, announced in March, would combine the flour milling operations of Omaha-based ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling, which is a joint venture of Minnesota-based Cargill and CHS Inc., a St. Paul, Minn., agribusiness.

ConAgra Foods would own 44 percent of Ardent Mills. Ardent Mills would control 34 percent of the U.S. wheat milling capacity, twice as much as Archer Daniels Midland, with 17 percent.

ConAgra said Tuesday that Ardent Mills “will continue to face significant competition from many other companies in the flour milling industry.” The firm has said the venture would spur competition and innovation in the industry and would not lower prices for wheat farmers, which is among the concerns of the American Antitrust Institute. The nonprofit group asked the Justice Department to look into “potentially adverse effects” of the venture.

“We remain confident in the Ardent Mills transaction and continue to believe that it will enhance competition and customer and consumer choice,” ConAgra said. “The proposed flour milling joint venture is important to ConAgra Foods, Cargill, CHS and their stakeholders and we want to continue to take the time to ensure its success while the U.S. Department of Justice continues its review.”

Ardent Mills would be based in the Denver area with offices in Omaha and Minneapolis.

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