BlackRock sells Marine Harvest shares, loses vote

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U.S. investor BlackRock has sold seven percent of its shares in Bergen-based salmon farmer Marine Harvest, the world’s largest aquaculture company said in a statement Thursday.

BlackRock —  which oversees USD 5.7 trillion in assets —  disposed of 1,900,784 shares, leaving it with 4.6 percent of the company. The disposal, however, means the New York City investment manager forfeits its voting rights in the company, a note to shareholders said.

Marine Harvest’s share price had been taking a beating since its middle-October 2017 high of NOK166 (up from a January 2017 low of NOK 149).  By Thursday at 3 p.m. Oslo time, MHG shares had fallen another day of trading by 2.55 percent to NOK 135.6.

The selloff makes the investment firm Marine Harvest’s fourth-largest shareholder after Geveran Trading Co. Ltd. —  the investment vehicle of billionaire shipping magnate, John Fredriksen — Norwegian pension fund manager, Folketrygdfondet, and Clearstream Banking.

Last year had been eventful for Marine Harvest, and recent forecasts of lower salmon prices for much of 2018 would be reason enough for a sale to pursue other investments.  In late December, Marine Harvest bought integrated grower, Northern Harvest, but the purchase is still slightly clouded by word competition officials are already looking at the move.

The year saw investments in Canadian processing and grow-out, novel Norwegian offshore farm designs and mass fish deaths. On December 12, Exane Paribas “downgraded” Marine Harvest shares and adjusted its target to NOK 140.

“The Bank said it believes supplies of salmon will grow faster than demand in 2018, and that this will weigh down the salmon price. It expects a reversal of course in 2019, SalmonBusiness had reported a note from TDN Finans as saying.

“Salmon price estimates were lowered to NOK55 a kilogram for 2018 and NOK57 a kilo in 2019, down from NOK 62 and NOK63, respectively. The bank’s analysts see Marine Harvest as a “raw-materials bet.”

BlackRock communicated the Marine Harvest Trade on Thursday. The investment manager reports its full-year and fourth-quarter earnings on Friday.