Cargill expects flour merger with ConAgra to be finalized in 6-8 weeks

Tue Apr 15, 2014 2:38pm EDT
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By Rod Nickel

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - U.S. agribusiness Cargill Inc CARG.UL expects the merger of its flour mill operations with those of ConAgra Foods Inc (CAG.N: Quote) to be finalized in six to eight weeks after it clears a longstanding regulatory hurdle, Cargill Executive Chairman Greg Page said on Tuesday.

The combined entity, to be called Ardent Mills, would join ConAgra's milling operations with Horizon Milling LLC, which is a joint venture of privately held Cargill and U.S. farm cooperative CHS Inc (CHSCP.O: Quote). The deal was announced in March 2013 and was initially expected to be finalized late last year.

But the U.S. Justice Department's antitrust division has been investigating the merger, which would result in Ardent Mills controlling about a third of U.S. flour mill capacity.

"We hope everything will be resolved in the next six to eight weeks," Page told reporters on the sidelines of the Canadian Global Crops Symposium in Winnipeg. "It took longer than we would have hoped, and I'm sure that our employees would have hoped, but there's been continuous attention given to it by the Justice Department.

"I think we're in the very final chapter of having it resolved positively."

Page also said the mortality of young pigs from the PED (porcine epidemic diarrhea) virus has abated significantly within Cargill's herds, which account for about 30 percent of the hogs it processes.

"But the impact will last a long time because the death loss was in very young pigs," he said. "This will have a long tail on it through the end of the summer."

Cargill has lost hours of pork processing time and seen "multimillion-dollar losses" due to the shortage of hogs caused by the virus, Page said.   Continued...

Cargill Inc's corn milling complex, which turns more than 100 million bushels of corn every year in food, feed, fuels and an increasing array of manufactured products from biodegradable plastics to industrial enzymes, is pictured near Blair, Nebraska, one hour north of Omaha, in this undated photograph obtained on September 30, 2010. REUTERS/Cargill/Handout