Nordlaks confirms its major investment in Atlantic Sapphire is motivated by increased wealth tax

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One of the biggest privately owned salmon farmers in Norway has confirmed it is investing in Atlantic Sapphire’s Miami operations to diversify its business as the Norwegian Government’s introduction of a wealth tax on locally-owned companies has made it doubt its future in its homeland.

The Norwegian legislature raised wealth tax in the fall of 2021 as an economic measure but the chairman of the board of Nordlaks, Kjell Bjordal, sees it as unfair to locally-owned companies.

Bjordal says the special tax puts foreign-owned companies in a favourable position as only Norwegian-owned privately held companies will be subjected to this tax.

“While Norwegian-owned companies get a tax increase which means that the companies must be tapped for billions every year, foreign ones escape completely. In addition, the wealth tax is based on the highest bidder for licenses so that foreign companies can decide how much their Norwegian-owned competitors will be drained of resources each year. It is difficult to envisage a more precise tool for transferring locally owned aquaculture companies to foreign hands,” says Bjordal.

Diversifying abroad
He says the investment in Atlantic Sapphire is Nordlaks’ way of diversifying in response to these developments. Nordlaks has pre-committed for NOK 150 million ($15.2 million) in a private placement that Atlantic Sapphire announced on Tuesday (June 28).

“We are now experiencing that the framework conditions for Norwegian aquaculture in general and for Norwegian-owned aquaculture companies outside the stock exchange in particular are becoming more and more uncertain. We no longer see any connection between the political ambitions of the industry and the way the industry is managed. We are therefore in doubt as to whether it is wise to continue to have all eggs in the same basket, even though we would very much like to continue building Northern Norway,” he says.

“We are happy to pay tax on equal terms, it is part of our social mission,” he continues. “But we see that it can quickly become more interesting to compete on equal terms outside than with handicap at home. Therefore, we take a limited position in Atlantic Sapphire, where we invest part of the money we had set aside for this autumn’s auction to buy a growth permit in Norway. We are used to the risk of innovation and that some steps forward are quickly replaced by a step back or two when trying to create something new. Atlantic Sapphire is many years ahead of its competitors and we consider that few have equal opportunities to succeed.”

First foray into land-based
Nordlaks currently has fish farms in 12 municipalities in Nordland and Troms, all of which are sea-based. Its investment in Atlantic Sapphire marks the first time Nordlaks is investing in land-based farming.

Says the CEO of Nordlaks, Eirik Welde: “We have been following Atlantic Sapphire since the start. In our opinion, they are one of the players that have come the furthest in land-based farming. They also have a good location at their facility in Miami, with good logistics to cover the American continent. Not least, they have access to a good water source and available area to increase production further. We believe the company has good conditions for success with its development plans.”

Johan Andreassen, CEO and founder of Atlantic Sapphire, says the investment is a vote of confidence in Atlantic Sapphire.

“We are impressed by Nordlaks’ operational history and look forward to having Nordlaks as a significant shareholder in the company,” he says.