Benson Hill Inc. has announced plans to improve its financial position and accelerate its transition to an asset-light business model with a focused expansion into broadacre animal feed markets. One of the first steps in this evolution was selling its Seymour, Indiana, soybean crush facility to White River Soy Processing for $36 million.
Benson Hill is working to improve its liquidity position after receiving a notice from the New York Stock Exchange on September 13 notifying the company it was not in compliance with the NYSE’s continued listing standards. NYSE noted as of September 12, 2023, the average closing price of the company’s common stock was less than $1/share over a consecutive 30 trading-day period. Under NYSE rules, Benson Hill has six months from September 13 to regain compliance. On October 31, the stock price closed at 15 cents/share.
The company announced several other steps as it moves forward:
- An Expanded Liquidity Improvement Plan includes planned divestitures of processing facilities to enable an asset-light business model. This includes transferring ownership of its Seymour, Indiana, soybean crush facility to White River Soy Processing for $36 million of total gross proceeds.
- Commercially available proprietary soybean varieties and a future innovation pipeline give Benson Hill a first-mover advantage in animal feed and pet food.
- Deanie Elsner appointed permanent CEO to continue leading the evolution of Benson Hill.
The company has taken actions to realize a $33 million run rate operating expense reduction in 2024, with expectations for future reductions in operating expense savings and capital expenditures, said Deanie Elsner, CEO.
“Benson Hill has the agility to persevere," she said. "Based on our ongoing strategic review, we believe the strengthening of our financial foundation, moving to an asset-light business model, and introducing our innovations into attractive broader end markets, is the most feasible path forward for Benson Hill. Through the actions we have taken and are continuing to implement, we are poised to deliver significant value as a leader in AI-driven proprietary seed innovation.
"With the expected divestiture of our processing facilities, we plan to retire high-cost debt and extend our liquidity by more than 12 months," Elsner continued. "In addition, we are engaged in discussions with potential partners to scale our current proprietary portfolio and product pipeline for large-acre U.S. animal feed and pet food markets."
Selling Seymour crush assets
Benson Hill has agreed to sell its Seymour, Indiana, soybean crush facility to White River Soy Processing for $36 million. The company acquired the facility in 2021 from Rose Acre Farms.
“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,” said Elsner. “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.”
Approximately 30 team members will become employees of White River, ensuring a smooth transition for customers, said the company. Benson Hill will honor 2023 and 2024 contracts with its farmer partners who deliver grain to Seymour. The parties also expect to finalize a grain supply and licensing agreement to continue processing Benson Hill’s proprietary soybeans through the facility.
The transaction closed on October 31, 2023.
Broadacre animal feed opportunity
Benson Hill recently completed an external analysis of several non-GMO, ultra-high protein low-oligosaccharide (UHP-LO) commercial soybean varieties validating novel value-added attributes for poultry diets, swine rations and pet food.
These breakthrough soybean varieties were developed from Benson Hill’s proprietary germplasm and CropOS innovation engine – an AI-based prediction and data insights platform. Research confirmed a trifecta of product attributes offered with UHP-LO desired by animal nutritionists, processors, feed formulators and farmers as compared to commodity soybeans:
- Higher protein levels: Animal feed costs can be lowered by replacing expensive animal protein sources with non-GMO, U.S.-grown soybean meal.
- Lower anti-nutritional factors and more energy: Improved soybean meal with fewer anti-nutritional factors supports animal digestive health and overall performance, contributing to the advancement of animal welfare.
- Enhanced amino acid profile: Essential amino acids reduce the need to add high-cost synthetic amino acids to feed.
As previously announced, Benson Hill expects to expand its UHP-LO soybean portfolio with herbicide-tolerant and second-generation seed varieties in the next two to three years, helping to extend its competitive advantage and diversify its market reach for different geographies and end markets, including large U.S. feed markets representing a total addressable market of approximately 28 million acres. Benson Hill is conducting additional studies as the 2023 crop comes out of the field and is working with outside parties to perform feeding trials in more species.
Elsner named CEO, effective immediately
In connection with these announcements, the board of directors has appointed Elsner to the position of CEO, effective immediately. She had served as Interim CEO since June when co-found Matt Crisp agreed to resign.
“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 the Benson Hill 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.”