Japanese major shareholder seeks to shift partnership with Norwegian fish producer.
In the summer of 2016, Yokohama Reito (known as Yokorei), acquired the Ålesund fish producer Fjordlaks Aqua via a 50/50-owned joint venture in partnership with the processing company Hofseth International. The price tag was NOK 1,008 million (US$114 million). The company was later renamed Hofseth Aqua.
The acquisition was made through the company HIYR, a portmanteau of Hofseth International and Yokorei. Now Yokorei wants to change its ownership in the fish farming company Hofseth Aqua.
This story was first reported in the Japanese newspaper, Suisan Keizai.
During a board meeting at Yokorei on 28 July, the decision was made to restructure the business in Norway. According to a stock exchange release from the company, “The Norwegian government is strengthening its stance on the protection of the fishing industry as a national policy. While Yokorei, which is a foreign company, continues to hold a 50 per cent stake in Hofseth Aqua, it will not be elligible to receive new aquaculture licenses or other incentives”.
Yokorei believe this will hamper growth ambitions and loan financing.
To solve this, Yokorei will make Hofseth Aqua a purely Norwegian company. Through talks with Hofseth International, Yokorei has decided to transfer the ownership of Hofseth Aqua to Hofseth International and turn the fish farming company into a wholly owned subsidiary. Yokorei will continue as a shareholder in Hofseth International (HI). The reorganization will be completed by the end of September.
“This is part of the restructuring we have done and are continuing to do to strengthen the company in Norway for further growth,” Roger Hofseth explained to iLaks.
“When we bought Fjordlaks Aqua, we owned it 50/50. It was for funding that we did so. So now we will take over 100 per cent of the shares. We have restructured so that farming is now wholly owned by HI.”
“Will Yokorei increase its ownership in HI as a result?”
“It has not been decided yet. They continue as a partner. Today, they own 14 per cent of HI, and they will continue to do so. This is so that they do not have to consolidate the fish farming part into their freezer operations. We are now anticipating massive investments, and they will continue as a shareholder in HI and Hofseth BioCare – as well as to buy product and build a market in Japan together,” Hofseth explains.
“This is very simple and very positive for our region. Easier for both companies. Hofseth Aqua is actually a Norwegian company run in Norway. So we strengthen our ownership and can develop the company further,” he says, adding that reporting in particular will be much easier.
“What settlement will Yokorei get?”
“HI will pay for it. We have an agreement from the time we bought the company. We buy ordinary shares in the company and pay down part of the preference capital. The details will be sent out in the stock exchange announcement.”
“Is the price the same as in 2016 or is it adjusted?”
“The price has been adjusted, but I am not allowed to say that since this is a listed company,” says Hofseth.
Yokorei’s consolidated revenue for 2020 was approximately US$1.1 billion. The company is listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The ties between founder Roger Hofseth and the large customer Yokorei are many and close.
Yokorei owns 14 per cent of Hofseth International, while the largest owner of Hofseth International is Roger Hofseth with 48.7 percent of the shares. Yokorei also owns 11 per cent of the shares in the listed biotech company Hofseth BioCare, which buys fish trimmings as a raw material for omega-3 production from Hofseth Aqua.
Hofseth BioCare and Alliance Seafood have also established HFS Alliance, a joint sales company with offices in the Yokorei Shintomi Building in Tokyo. Alliance Seafood is a subsidiary of Yokorei, and is engaged in the processing, sale, import and export of seafood and other food products.
Hofseth Aqua has not published its 2020 accounts, but in 2019 the company had an operating profit of NOK 143 million (US$16 million).