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now a billion-dollar operation


In yet another move to increase its international expansion, New Brunswick multi-national Cooke Aquaculture has acquired the UK integrated farming operations on the Shetland and Orkney Islands from Norwegian giant Marine Harvest.

The operations, under the name Morpol, which came at an estimated price of $55 million CAD, have a combined harvest volume of 17,400 gross weight for 2014, which gives Cooke a strong foothold in a new country.

“This purchase gives us a unique platform for our European operations and is a good fit with our Spanish sea bass and sea bream farming company, Culmarex. We will be able to leverage our global relationships with suppliers and build on Meridian’s excellent market reach into both the European and US marketplace,” said Cooke, in a statement.

“The company is highly profitable and expects a significant ebitda increase going forward. This will be driven by an increased sales price per kg that will be achieved when it is operated as an independent company. Meridian is also a cost effective producer with a dedicated management team and employee base. There are many similarities between our corporate cultures and the pristine natural environments and high environmental standard of our farming operations.”

The divestment is a consequence of the remedies set forth by the European Commission for the approval of the Morpol transaction in September 2013.

The Commission required Marine Harvest to divest farming capacity on the Shetland and Orkney Islands. The agreement is conditional on the Commission approving that the purchaser and the transaction as well as the sales terms satisfy these remedies.

Halifax-based Stewart McKelvey acted as general counsel and Thommessen acted as local counsel.

Cooke, which has its with a head office in Black’s Harbour New Brunswick and North American salmon farming operations in Atlantic Canada and Maine, also owns Salmones Cupquelan, a salmon farming company in southern Chile and Culmarex, a sea bass and sea bream farming company in southern Spain.

Following the Meridian acquisition, Cooke will have close to CAD 1 billion in turnover and 2,500 employees, states a press release.

New entry to UK
Cooke has already expanded outside of salmon farming in North America with a presence in Chile, where it was trying to increase its exposure through buying Invermar, a deal that fell through.

It has acquired farming assets in Spain to become the largest producer. In February 2013, it added to this element of its business with a deal for Doramenor, from Ricardo Fuentes e Hijos.

The acquisition – which follows months of negotiations, as previously reported — doubled Cooke’s bass and bream output from when it first started in Spain.

It will also make it the world’s fifth largest producer of bass and bream, Nell Halse, spokesperson at Cooke, told Undercurrent News.

The deal took Cooke’s salmon production to around 15,000t in 2013, up from 9,000t in 2012, Halse said.

Cooke first obtained a foothold in Spain in 2012 when it acquired Culmarex from Polish processor Morpol.