Hatching a new plan: ova supplier Benchmark Holdings is seeking a possible buyer.

Benchmark is up for sale

Directors may sell all or part of 'undervalued' aquaculture biotechnology company

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The board of aquaculture genetics, nutrition, and health business Benchmark Holdings is considering selling all or parts of the company, it said it a market announcement today.

Benchmark employs more than 800 people worldwide and its products include salmon ova produced in Norway, Iceland, and Chile, and the Ectosan Vet/CleanTreat salmon delousing treatment used in Norway.

The board believes that Benchmark’s current share price materially undervalues the combined value of the company’s businesses and long-term prospects, which may at least in part be due to the “tightly held and illiquid nature of its ordinary shares”.

75% of shares 'not public' 

As of August 31, 2023, Benchmark had issued more than 739 million shares on the Alternative Investment Market, 75.73% of which were not in public hands.

The most significant shareholders included Ferd AS, a holding company owned by one of Norway’s richest men, Johan H Andresen, and his two daughters. As of that date, Ferd owned 25.96% of Benchmark. The other significant shareholders were London-based investment firm JNE Partners LLP (22.74%), Kverva Finans AS (22.35%), and Harwood Capital (3.95%). Kverva Finans is indirectly owned the Witzøe family who own the majority of salmon farming giant SalMar.

“As a result, having consulted with the Company's major shareholders, the Board has unanimously decided to undertake a formal review of the Company's strategic options including, but not limited to, a sale of the Company as a whole or alternatively the potential sale of one or more individual business units, to establish whether there is a bidder or bidders prepared to offer a value for the Company or its individual business units that the Board considers attractive relative to the Board's view of intrinsic value,” stated Benchmark.

Confidential talks

Benchmark has agreed with the UK Takeover Panel that any discussions in relation to an offer for the company may take place within the context of a formal sale process to enable conversations with parties interested in making such a proposal to take place on a confidential basis.

Interested parties will be invited to submit non-binding indicative offers and be required to enter into a non-disclosure agreement.

UK-registered Benchmark said management actions over the last three years have delivered substantial revenue growth and improvement in profitability and cash conversion. Since its 2020 financial year, revenue from continuing operations has grown from £105.4 million to £169.5m in FY23 and Adjusted EBITDA has increased from £15.5m to £35.5m. It made a net loss, including discontinued operations, of £21.6m for FY23 year.

“The Company is well positioned with a strong balance sheet and significant headroom to grow within its existing markets, as well as multiple potential avenues for expansion,” its announcement stated.