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Battle for Huon heats up as Cooke confirms interest

Glenn Cooke believes Huon 'holds tremendous promise' to produce world renowned salmon. Photo: Cooke Seafood
Glenn Cooke believes Huon 'holds tremendous promise' to produce world renowned salmon. Photo: Cooke Seafood

Cooke Seafood has confirmed it is interested in buying Tasmanian salmon farmer Huon in an already hotly contested takeover battle, the Mercury reported.

The Canadian company, based in New Brunswick, was rumoured to have made an offer earlier this year but Huon founders Peter and Frances Bender recommended that shareholders accept the A$425 million (£226m) bid by Brazilian meat processing multinational JBS.

Then, mining magnate Andrew Forrest, one of Australia’s richest men and one of Huon’s largest shareholders, appeared to enter the frame, with his company Tattarang increasing its holding from 7% to 18.51% a week ago. Forrest had raised concerns about JBS’s environmental credentials.

Parallel

The Brazilian company countered by making a parallel offer last Friday to buy Huon, with a 50.1 per cent minimum acceptance offer.

Now, Cooke chief executive Glenn Cooke said he believed Tasmania was ‘an attractive state to invest in’.

‘Huon holds tremendous promise as an established company to continue producing world-renowned salmon and build upon the region’s talented fish farming workforce,’ he said.

‘Cooke is committed to continuous improvement of quality and environmental performance. Through our many certifications and partnerships with research institutions, we continue to set the highest standards for responsible harvesting and sustainable processes.’

Atlantic salmon

Cooke’s current operations encompass Atlantic salmon, sea bass and seabream farming, wild fishery divisions, and one of Latin America’s biggest prawn farms. It has more than 10,000 employees in 10 countries, including the United States, Scotland, Costa Rica and Chile.

According to the Mercury, Melbourne-based corporate advisory firm Kidder Williams, headed by investment banker and former Tassal owner David Williams, has been appointed to advise Cooke.

Williams said: ‘What Tasmania really needs most at the moment is a safe pair of hands, an experienced operator who can take the industry to the next level … and is world’s best practice.’