Firda and Blom to launch “major strategic cooperation”?

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Triangle of silence and confusion over new cooperation.

On Wednesday, it was reported that the two Norwegian fish farmers Firda Seafood and Blom Fiskeoppdrett announced a major strategic cooperation between the two companies.

A PR smiling photo was released showing Firda owner Ola Braanaas, punching a fist in the air, locked in arms with chairman Jakob Blom and CEO Øyvind Blom.

There was much to celebrate. The cooperation talked of synergies and new ownership constellation with a gross annual production of 30,000 tonnes of salmon and trout in Norway.

Blom Group, owns 66 per-cent of Fiskeoppdrett, which had a turnover of EUR 44 million in 2019 and had an operating loss of EUR -10 million. In comparison, the Firda Seafood Group had a turnover of EUR 112 million and had an operating profit of EUR 16.6 million in 2019.

Not clear
However, it was not clear from the message what way the ownership cooperation will be conducted or whether there is talk of an acquisition or an actual merger.

“Blom Gruppen AS and Firda Seafood Group AS have agreed that it has been will not be giving any further comments,” the press released stated.

Blom viewing facility in Hjeltefjorden, Western Norway. PHOTO: Trine Forsland

To complicate matters more, Blom Fiskeoppdrett, however, has long struggled with profitability and is entangled in litigation between the company’s two shareholders, Blom Gruppen and Coast Seafood.

In November last year, SB’s sister publication Ilaks reported that Blom Fiskeoppdrett believes that the exporter Coast Seafood has been systematically underpaid for trout for six years. The case is particularly relevant since Coast is a major owner (34 per-cent) in Blom Fiskeoppdrett.

Coast Seafood CEO Sverre Søraa has rejected these accusations.

He also said that Coast is not planning to sell their stake.

“No, we are still owners of Blom Fiskeoppdrett and our situation has not changed,” he said to SB.

Smokescreen
SB contacted both companies on how this ownership cooperation will form. But it now appears that it was either a negotiating strategy or some kind of PR smokescreen.

There is no doubt who is the big brother in the negotiations for ownership cooperation. Ola Braanaas owns 100 percent of the Firda Group. He’s known to enjoy being in control.

The joker is what is now happening with Coast Seafood’s ownership post in Blom Fiskeoppdrett. Is Ola Braanaas joining as a minority shareholder, along with the Blom Group, or will he take control?

Firda Seafoods harvest facility at Byrknesøy, Gulen, Western Norway. PHOTO: Aslak Berge

Not replied
The owners of Blom Fiskeoppdrett and Firda Seafood have not replied to multiple requests for comment.

Blom Fiskeoppdrett chairman Torbjørn Gjelsvik did reply, but he was not well versed in the situation.

“All proposals that can reduce production costs and increase the production volumes of Blom Fiskeoppdrett are received with pleasure. Beyond that, I don’t really have any comment,” Gjelsvik said.

“This is a case that relates exclusively to the owners of Blom Fiskeoppdrett,” added Gjelsvik.