JBS SA, the world’s biggest meat producer, is expanding into the fish business by acquiring Australian salmon producer Huon Aquaculture Group for A$425 million (US$314 million).
The deal already has the backing of the majority shareholders and is set to be completed by the end of this year following approval by Australian authorities, the Sao Paulo-based company said in a statement.
Huon, based in Tasmania, is the country’s second-largest salmon farmer, producing about 35,000 tons of fish and owning about 40 per cent of the local market, according to the statement. Mining magnate Andrew Forrest bought a 7.3 per cent stake in the Sydney-listed company for just under A$20 million (US$15 million) in June.
JBS, which plans to buy 100 per cent of Huon, already operates in Tasmania with a beef processing unit in Longford. The company bought pork producer Rivalea in April, a deal which sparked a public inquiry from Australia’s competition watchdog on whether the meat hegemon has an outsized impact in that market.
Global fish consumption is surging faster than that of beef, chicken or pork, driven by an expanding and increasingly prosperous global population that recognizes the health benefits of eating seafood. Demand in the US$400 billion fish market is so big that it’s attracting companies like Cargill Inc., which is also targeting deals to get into the fish production and processing business.
“This is a strategic move, which marks the entry of JBS in the aquaculture business,” said Chief Executive Officer Gilberto Tomazoni. “Aquaculture will be a new growth platform for our business.”
Still, Huon has struggled to make a profit recently. The company posted a loss of AUS$95 million in the six months ended December, citing lower global demand for salmon amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Huon said in February it would undertake a strategic review to assess the potential for corporate level transactions after receiving unsolicited approaches.