ST. LOUIS — Benson Hill, a food technology company, has sold its Seymour, Ind., soybean crush facility to White River Soy Processing, LLC, Grand Island, Neb., for about $36 million, subject to working capital and other adjustments. The transaction closed Oct. 31, the same day Benson Hill announced it was transitioning to an asset-light business model and expanding in animal feed markets.
The company’s board of directors also appointed Deanie Elsner as chief executive officer. She had been interim CEO.
Benson Hill is working to improve its liquidity position after receiving a notice from the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 13 notifying the company it was not in compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards because, as of Sept. 12, the average closing price of Benson Hill’s common stock was less than $1 per share over a consecutive 30-trading-day period. Under NYSE rules, Benson Hill has six months from Sept. 13 to regain compliance. The stock price closed at 16¢ per share on Oct. 30.
St. Louis-based Benson Hill, which had owned and operated the soybean facility since 2021, intends to the use the proceeds from the sale to improve its liquidity position, pay down debt, and reduce operating and working capital costs.
“The sale of the Seymour crush assets sharpens our focus on future growth and further enables disciplined capital allocation as part of our three-part liquidity improvement plan,” Ms. Elsner said. “Under our ownership the Seymour team has achieved record-breaking safety and production records, and we are extremely grateful for their efforts. We look forward to working with White River to seamlessly meet the needs of our farmers, customers and team members.”
About 30 Benson Hill employees will become White River employees. Benson Hill said it will honor 2023 and 2024 contracts with farmers who deliver grain to the Seymour facility. It was expected a grain supply and licensing agreement will be finalized, which would allow Benson Hill’s proprietary soybeans to continue to be processed through the facility.
The sale was part of Benson Hill’s liquidity improvement plan, which also includes aiming for a $33 million run rate operating expense reduction in 2024. Management expects actions under the plan to provide over 12 months of liquidity once the company pays off high-cost debt.
“We are already making progress on our strategic path,” Ms. Elsner said. “With the expected divestiture of our processing facilities, we plan to retire high-cost debt and extend our liquidity by more than 12 months. In addition, we are engaged in discussions with potential partners to scale our current proprietary portfolio and product pipeline for large-acre US animal feed and pet food markets. I am excited about the opportunities to leverage the core strengths of the business for long-term value creation.”
In animal feed, Benson Hill expects costs may be lowered through non-GMO soybean meal grown in the United States replacing animal protein sources. Benson Hill’s proprietary germplasm and CropOS innovation were used to develop non-GMO, ultra-high protein, low-oligosaccharide commercial soybean varieties.
Ms. Elsner was named interim CEO in June. From 2019 to 2021, she served as president, CEO and director of Charlotte’s Web Holdings, Inc., which offers hemp-derived cannabinoid (CBD) extract products. She also was president of US Snacks for the Kellogg Co. and worked for Kraft Foods, Quaker Oats, Johnson & Johnson and Procter & Gamble.“In her first few months as interim CEO of Benson Hill, Deanie has demonstrated a keen understanding of the market complexities and has uncovered ways to leverage the strength of CropOS and the company’s unparalleled innovation pipeline,” said Dan Jacobi, chairman of Benson Hill’s board of directors. “We appreciate her willingness and enthusiasm to lead the company on this journey, and the board has every confidence that Deanie is the right person to take Benson Hill into its next phase of growth and keep the company on solid financial footing.”