FIRB to decide on JBS bid for Huon as Tattarang waits in the wings

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Speculation that Tattarang had earlier made a bid for Huon has been confirmed. 

Following Cooke Seafood’s confirmation last week that it was interested in acquiring Tasmanian salmon farmer Huon, on Monday, it was revealed that Tattarang, the investment vehicle of billionaire Andrew Forrest, had bid for Huon earlier this year.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Huon’s chairman, Neil Kearney, told shareholders that Tattarang had made a non-binding and unconditional offer for the business after Huon began a review of its business operations earlier this year.

Tattarang was given the opportunity to participate further in the review process and submit a final offer for the business but declined to do so. Kearney said the firm’s offer was much lower than the $3.85 a share deal currently being offered for the business by the Brazilian meat processor JBS.

The revelation goes some way to explaining Forrests’s actions in recent weeks and puts further pressure on him to formalise his interest. But it’s unlikely either Forrest or Cooke will attempt to beat the meat giant’s $3.85-a-share offer.

Instead, they are carefully watching Australia’s foreign investment review board’s (FIRB) ruling on JBS, with new bids likely to emerge if the deal is knocked back.

The investment review panel considers the ‘character of the investor’ when assessing whether to green light a foreign investment, specifically looking at a company’s corporate governance practices.

JBS has been plagued by controversy in recent years, with its founders and controlling shareholders jailed for bribing more than 1,800 Brazilian politicians and the company fined billions of dollars in a major corruption scandal. It has also faced two separate price-fixing cases in the US.