Canadian seafood giant fishing for Tasmania’s last locally owned salmon producer

A wealth adviser says it appears that a Canadian fishing company is “pretty serious” about taking control of Tasmanian salmon giant Tassal, which could leave the entire state salmon industry in the hands of foreign investors.

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 the board would not consider Cooke’s offer to buy the company for $4.85 a share, having 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 achieving our strategic objectives.”

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

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

Cooke already owns a 5.4 percent stake in Tassal and had tried to buy Huon Aquaculture but lost to Brazilian meat processor JBS.

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

“They are known to the government and the Foreign Investment Review Board for having pre-approvals, which was not the case with JBS,” said Mr Baker.

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 “seems pretty serious about taking control of Tassal”.tassal

“It is now really up to Cooke whether or not to raise the takeover bid, which will put the Tassal board in a position where they may want to formally start a process,” he said.

“Right now it is certainly very uncertain about what will happen. I imagine the most immediate impact is Tassal stock will be higher in the expectation that a trade could take place at some point in the future.”

‘Of course we prefer Australians’

A Cooke company spokesperson referred the ABC to an earlier statement regarding its Tassal offer, which did not clarify whether any future offers would be made.

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

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

“It is a vote of confidence in investing in food and drink and aquaculture in Tasmania in general,” said Mr Rockliff.

“Of course we would prefer Australians to invest in their local businesses and also in their local businesses, but investment opportunities come from different corners of the world.”

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