Flour-milling joint venture Ardent Mills to locate HQ in Denver

  • Article by: MIKE HUGHLETT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 16, 2013 - 9:19 PM

Powerhouse project of Cargill, CHS and ConAgra chooses a home at the end of the prairie.

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The giant flour-milling joint venture that is being formed by Cargill, CHS and ConAgra will locate its headquarters in the Denver area. File photo of products in Cargill flour lab.

Photo: Richard Tsong -Taatarii, Star Tribune

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The nation’s new flour power may be majority-owned by Minnesota companies, but it will call the Denver area home.

That was the word Tuesday from Cargill, CHS and ConAgra Foods. The three firms in March announced the merger of their flour milling operations into a new firm dubbed Ardent Mills, which would be the largest U.S. flour producer by far.

Currently, Cargill and Inver Grove Heights-based CHS run a flour joint venture called Horizon Milling based at Cargill’s home offices in Minnetonka. ConAgra is based in Omaha.

Ardent Mills is expected to operate satellite offices in Minneapolis and Omaha. The deal is scheduled to be completed late this year, the companies said in a statement, and Ardent Mills will likely be located in the Denver area by 2014, though a specific location hasn’t been set.

Why Denver? Dan Dye, Horizon’s president and Ardent’s CEO-to-be, said in a statement that the decision “will allow us to offer great quality of life for employees, provide excellent service to our customers and position the business for long-term growth.”

It probably doesn’t hurt, too, that some economic development juice is coming Ardent’s way from the folks in Colorado. The move is contingent on the approval of “state and local incentives,” Ardent Mills said in a statement.

Cargill spokeswoman Lori Fligge said specifics weren’t being disclosed.

Agribusiness colossus Cargill and CHS, the nation’s largest farmers cooperative, have combined their flour operations for 11 years in the form of Horizon Milling. Horizon is already the top U.S. miller with 18 percent of the market, while ConAgra has 16 percent, according to Milling & Baking News, a trade publication.

Horizon has about 180 employees at its Minnetonka headquarters. “Staffing plans for the new business haven’t been finalized,” Fligge said in an e-mail. “The vast majority of Horizon Milling’s headquarters employees are expected to remain at their current location for a number of months after the transaction is completed.”

The Ardent joint venture will encompass 44 mills, three bakery mix facilities and a specialty bakery, and will include locations in Canada and Puerto Rico. Cargill and ConAgra will each own a 44 percent stake in Ardent, while CHS will own 12 percent.

Ardent Mills will have a commanding 35 percent share of the flour milling market and over $4 billion in sales.

Currently, CHS owns 24 percent of Horizon Milling, while Cargill owns 76 percent. Horizon has flour mills in Mankato, Rush City and Lake City, Minn., while ConAgra has mills in Hastings and New Prague.

The Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division is investigating the proposed joint venture of Horizon with ConAgra, said Gina Talamona, a spokeswoman for the agency. The deal requires regulatory approval.

 

Mike Hughlett • 612-673-7003

 

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