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Justice OKs Ardent Mills venture with caveats

By Maggie Hennessy , 27-May-2014
Last updated the 27-May-2014 at 16:27 GMT

The US Department of Justice will allow the formation of Ardent Mills, the largest US flour miller, to proceed if the companies involved sell four competitively significant mills. The massive venture would combine the flour milling assets of ConAgra Mills, a subsidiary of ConAgra Foods, and Horizon Milling, a joint venture between Cargill and CHS. 

Last week, the DOJ’s Antitrust Division filed a civil antitrust lawsuit in the US District Court for the District of Columbia to block the proposed joint venture. Simultaneously, the department filed a proposed settlement that, if approved by the court, “would resolve the competitive concerns alleged in the lawsuit.”

To resolve such claims, ConAgra must sell mills in Oakland, CA, Saginaw, TX, and New Prague, MN, and Horizon must divest its Los Angeles mill. All four will be sold to Miller Milling Co., a US-based subsidiary of Tokyo-based Nisshin Flour Milling Inc., which has a minimal presence in the regions of concern.

Following the sale, which is expected to be completed before May 29, Ardent Mills’ operations and services will be supported by 40 flour mills, three bakery mix facilities and a specialty bakery, all located in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico. The new venture will be headquartered in Denver, with satellite offices in Omaha and Minneapolis. The Denver headquarters is expected to employ 250 staff at the start.

With the proposed divestitures, the joint venture will result in more competitive prices for wheat flour purchasers and ultimately lower prices for consumers who purchase wheat flour-based products such as bread, cookies and crackers, according to the DOJ. 

“The divestitures will ensure that competition for hard and soft wheat flour sales is preserved in regions surrounding Los Angeles, Dallas, Minneapolis and the Bay Area,” Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Antitrust Division Renata B. Hesse said. (Read the complete DOJ statement .) 

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