Major grain companies ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG), Cargill, and CHS Inc. (NASDAQ:CHSCP) are undertaking a major joint venture called Ardent Mills. By merging Horizon Milling, a Cargill and CHS joint venture, with ConAgra Mills, Ardent Mills will become the largest flour milling company in the United States with 44 flour mills, three bakery mix facilities, and a specialty bakery under its control.
This merger promises to protect the grain market positions with baking plants that are facing division among new or different operators. Expected to make up 34% of the U.S. market in terms of milling capacity, this merger will be of major significance in the grain industry.
Who will benefit?
CHS Inc. (NASDAQ:CHSCP), a Minnesota-based agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers, and cooperatives across the United States, and Cargill, a privately-owned, Minneapolis-based international producer and marketer of food, agricultural, financial, and industrial products and services have already undergone a successful joint venture, Horizon Milling. So successful in fact, Horizon Milling is now considered to be the number one U.S. milling company with the highest milling capacity and reported sales of $ 2.5 billion in fiscal 2012.
This joint venture has also been increasingly profitable over time with CHS Inc. (NASDAQ:CHSCP)'s share of earnings in 2012 amounting to $2.3 million more than in 2011. With an 11% increase in stock price over the past year, CHS is not entering in on this joint venture as a last resort. Not only has CHS performed well in 2012, it has had increasing and steady growth over the past five years as seen by a 28% increase in stock price.
ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG), a Nebraska-based consumer and commercial foods producer, also had a fantastic 2012. As the number three U.S. milling company with reported sales of $1.8 billion in 2012, this joint venture will only mean bigger and better things for ConAgra. ConAgra has seen an even larger increase in stock price in 2012 than CHS Inc. (NASDAQ:CHSCP) with a 41% jump during the past year from prices rising from $25 to $35.
So far, ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG) has increased its earnings 16.87% this year. Additionally, there has been a 25% increase in EPS so far in the 2013 fiscal year compared to the entire 2012 fiscal year. Acquisitions of well known brands such as Del Monte Canada, National Pretzel Company, and Kangaroo Brand pita chips and the coveted position as Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT)'s number two multinational supplier may be responsible for much of this increase.
This merger has been so favorably received that set backs like the recall of Orville Redenbacher's Classic Kettle Korn due to packaging problems about a week before the merger announcement, has not even made a dent in ConAgra Foods, Inc. (NYSE:CAG)'s progress. With a P/E of 26.6, investors are excited about ConAgra's growth. Analysts predict that ConAgra will increase in stock price by 6.7% to 24.4% over the next 12 months.