CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, U.S. — Earnings after taxes of Ardent Mills LLC were $151.9 million in the year ended May 27, down 23% from $197 million in fiscal 2018. Net sales were $3.476 billion, up 3.9% from $3.344 billion.

The Ardent Mills financials were published in the Form 10-K annual report of Conagra Brands, Inc., Chicago, filed July 19 with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Included in the profits for 2019 was a gain of $15.1 million ($11.6 million after tax) related to the sale of an asset within the Ardent Mills joint venture. The filing did not specify the asset, but in October 2018 Ardent Mills said it was selling its flour mill in downtown Tampa, Florida, U.S., and would be building another mill in the area. In April 2019, the company said it had selected Port Tampa Bay as the site for a new mill that the Tampa Bay Times said would cost $62 million to build.

Results for fiscal 2018 included a gain of $4.3 million ($2.9 million after tax) in connection with the liquidation of an international joint venture.

Adjusted for the special items, after-tax income was $140.3 million in fiscal 2019, down 28% from $194.1 million the year before.

Gross margins of Ardent Mills were 8.1% in fiscal 2019, down from 11.6% in fiscal 2018 and 10.7% in fiscal 2017. The margins were not adjusted for the gains in fiscal 2019 and fiscal 2018.

“Ardent Mills earnings for fiscal 2019 reflected lower commodity margins and the timing of certain customer contracts that negatively impacted performance,” Conagra said.

Conagra estimated its share of earnings from our equity method investment earnings as $75.8 million and $97.3 million for fiscal years 2019 and 2018, respectively.  Ardent Mills accounts for the majority of Conagra’s equity method investment earnings — $66.8 million of the $75.8 million in fiscal 2019.

A condensed balance sheet for Ardent Mills contained in the Conagra Form 10-K showed little year-to-year change. Ardent Mills assets as of May 26 totaled $2.622 billion, down 1.1% from the year before. Liabilities were $858.1 million, down 1%. Net equity was $1.764 billion, down 1.1%.

Conagra holds a 44% stake in Ardent Mills with Cargill (44%) and CHS (8%). The joint venture was established five years ago — in May 2014.