RPT-EXCLUSIVE-States join U.S. probe of Cargill/ConAgra flour deal

Fri Jul 5, 2013 8:41am EDT
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By Diane Bartz

WASHINGTON, July 3 (Reuters) - A group of wheat-growing states has joined the U.S. Justice Department in investigating a proposed joint venture by Cargill, CHS and ConAgra, which would make the largest U.S. flour miller even larger, two sources told Reuters.

About a dozen states, led by Oklahoma's attorney general, will join the department's antitrust division in a review of the plan by ConAgra Foods Inc to join Horizon Milling, a joint venture of Cargill Inc. and CHS Inc.

The deal would combine their U.S. flour milling businesses into a venture that would control about one-third of U.S. capacity, dwarfing all competitors in size and market reach. The deal was announced on March 5.

"The antitrust division is investigating a proposed joint venture between ConAgra Foods, Cargill and CHS Inc that would combine the flour milling operations of ConAgra Mills and Horizon Milling into a new joint venture called Ardent Mills," said Justice Department spokeswoman Gina Talamona.

Horizon Milling is currently the largest U.S. miller.

Oklahoma and the other states are concerned that the new venture, to be called Ardent Mills, will have the power to illegally push down prices received by farmers for their wheat, the sources said.

They will also look at the impact on prices companies and consumers pay for flour, the sources said.   Continued...