Cooke confirms interest in Huon Aquaculture

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Canadian firm’s interest sets the scene for a battle for control with meat giant JBS.

The Canadian aquaculture company, Cooke Seafood, has confirmed its interest in Huon Aquaculture, setting the stage for a battle for control of the Tasmanian company with meat processing giant JBS.

This comes after reports this month that the fish farmer had been successfully acquired by JBS, following Huon founders Peter and Frances Bender recommendation that shareholders accept JBS’s offer to buy the company for $3.85 a share.

But the acquisition has been something of a rollercoaster ride with Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest making an intervention through his investment firm Tattarang, and speculation that JBS’ bid for Huon could be rejected by the Australian Foreign Investment Review Board.

Now it has been confirmed that the Canadian company will make its interest official. Tasmanian newspaper, The Mercury quotes Glenn Cooke, the company’s chief executive, as saying his aim was to “grow responsibly” and that he believed Tasmania was “an attractive state to invest in”.

Glenn Cooke, CEO of Cooke Aquaculture PHOTO: Cooke Aquaculture

In a statement clearly addressing Andrew Forrest’s demand that JBS commit to higher welfare and environmental standards, Cooke 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.”

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

Cooke’s 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.

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