CHICAGO — Earnings remained strong in the third quarter of fiscal 2023 at Ardent Mills, though growth in profits slowed from a year earlier.
Data on Ardent Mills’ financial results were published April 6 in a Form 10-Q filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission by Conagra Brands, Inc., which holds a 44% stake in the nation’s largest flour milling company.
Conagra equity method earnings in the quarter ended Feb. 26 were $50.5 million, up 5% from $48.1 million in the same period a year earlier. Equity method earnings in the third quarter of fiscal 2022 in turn were up 124% from the year before. The third-quarter results also topped profits of $49.3 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2023 and $49.2 million in the second quarter. Cargill also owns 44% of Ardent Mills, while CHS owns 12%.
Year-to-date equity method earnings at Conagra were $149 million, up 52% from $97.8 million in the first three quarters of fiscal 2022.
“Ardent Mills earnings for the third quarter and first three quarters of fiscal 2023 reflected favorable market conditions, including the joint venture’s effective management through the recent volatility in the wheat markets,” Conagra said in the filing.
In an April 5 earnings call with investment analysts, one analyst said Ardent Mills was having a “banner this year on top of a great year last year” and asked for guidance regarding the milling business’s outlook. Conagra management declined to offer guidance on Ardent Mills performance in the fourth quarter or in fiscal 2024.
“Ardent Mills is a great business,” said David S. Marberger, executive vice president and chief financial officer. “It’s a newer business. It’s been growing, and it really has two key components of its business. It’s core milling and blending business where it creates great flours that it sells to customers and then it has more of a trading type business. And so that core business has continued to grow, the margins have expanded. They have great mix. They have great strategies to really drive the margins on that business and the sales. And they’ve also benefited from this environment and the volatility on their trading side of the business.“And so the question comes down to what’s that trading piece? I think that the center line of performance for Ardent Mills will continue to go up. It’s just quarter-to-quarter, there can be more volatility just given the nature of the business.”