Canadian grain handler Richardson to buy Conagra's Wesson cooking oil

WINNIPEG, Manitoba (Reuters) - Canada's biggest grain handler, Richardson International Ltd, said on Tuesday that it had agreed to buy Wesson, a retail brand of canola and vegetable oils, from Conagra Brands Inc CAG.N.

The agreement came after J.M. Smucker Co SJM.N, owner of rival Crisco brand, dropped its bid in March to acquire Wesson, after the U.S. Federal Trade Commission argued it would lessen competition.

Richardson’s purchase price was not disclosed, but Conagra had previously agreed to sell Wesson to Smucker for $285 million before that deal collapsed. Richardson’s deal with Conagra, subject to regulatory approval, includes the Wesson plant in Memphis, Tennessee.

Acquiring Wesson, the top-selling U.S. cooking oil brand, adds to Richardson’s diversification into food products from bulk grain handling, said Jean-Marc Ruest, the company’s senior vice president of corporate affairs.

Richardson also owns an oat mill in Nebraska, and is interested in further acquisitions to build its U.S. business, Ruest said in an interview.

Winnipeg-based Richardson International is a subsidiary of James Richardson & Sons, a family-owned business dating back 161 years. The company’s core business is handling Canadian farmers’ canola and wheat. It also owns oilseed-crushing plants and grain mills.

The deal is expected to close in the first quarter of 2019. Ruest said Richardson did not expect difficulty obtaining regulatory approval as it currently sells little cooking oil in the United States.

Reporting by Rod Nickel in Winnipeg, Manitoba; Editing by Phil Berlowitz and Peter Cooney