Canadian seafood giant looking to snap up Tasmanian salmon producer

A wealth adviser says it seems a Canadian seafood company is “pretty serious” about taking control of Tasmanian salmon giant Tassal, which could leave the entirety of the state’s salmon industry in the hands of foreign investors.

Key points:

  • Tassal is the last of the big three Tasmanian farmed salmon producers not foreign-owned
  • Canadian company Cooke Seafood was in the hunt for Huon Aquaculture, before JBS Foods won out
  • Cooke now appears determined to take full control of Tassal

In a statement released to the ASX overnight, Tassal said it had rejected a third takeover bid from Cooke, which is based in Canada and has salmon farms in 10 countries.

Tassal’s statement said its board would not consider Cooke’s offer to buy the business for $4.85 a share, and had previously rejected offers of $4.67 and $4.80.

“The company’s board of directors believes Tassal has an attractive, independent future and is well-positioned to deliver growth in shareholder value,” the statement said. “The board of directors and management team remain focused on building on the company’s long history and delivering on our strategic objectives.”

Asked whether it would consider future offers, and whether Tassal would stay in Tasmanian hands, the company pointed only to its ASX statement.

An old man flanked either side by two younger men.

Cooke Seafood’s Gifford Cooke, and his sons, Glenn (left) and Michael.(Twitter: Cooke Seafood)

Cooke already has a 5.4 per cent stake in Tassal and had sought to buy Huon Aquaculture, losing out to Brazilian meat processor JBS.

Speaking on ABC’s Country Hour, Shadforths Financial Group private wealth adviser Sam Baker said it appeared Cooke had been trying to get a foothold in Australian aquaculture “for some time”.

“They are known by the government and by the Foreign Investment Review Board to have pre-approvals in place, which wasn’t the case with JBS,” Mr Baker said.

Mr Baker said while it was “business as usual” at Tassal, the ball was back in Cooke’s court.

Atlantic salmon swimming in an underwater pen.

An industry adviser says Cooke seem “pretty serious about taking control of Tassal”.(Tassal)

“It’s really now back over to Cooke as to whether or not to raise the takeover offer, which will put the board of Tassal in a position where they may look to start to engage formally with a process,” he said.

“At this point, it is certainly very uncertain as to what will occur. I suppose the most immediate impact is that Tassal shares will be higher on the expectation there could be a transaction at some point in the future.”

‘Of course, we would prefer Australians’

A Cooke company spokesman referred the ABC to a previous statement on its Tassal bid, which did not clarify whether future offers would be made.

Tasmania’s two other major salmon producers — Huon Aquaculture and Petuna — have become entirely foreign-owned in recent years.

The island state’s Premier, Jeremy Rockliff, said the takeovers were “a vote of confidence” in the state’s salmon industry.

“It is a vote of confidence in investing in food and beverage and aquaculture in Tasmania more broadly,” Mr Rockliff said.

“Of course, we would prefer Australians to invest in their local enterprises and their local companies as well, but investment opportunities come from various quarters across the globe.”

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