Huon shareholders agree JBS takeover deal

Shareholders in Australian salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture have voted in favour of the takeover bid from multinational meat processor JBS.

In an online meeting this morning, Chairman Neil Kearney set out the case for accepting the offer, which values Huon at around A$550m (£300m) means shareholders would get $3.85 per share.

Australian broadcaster ABC reports that more than 99% of shareholders voted in favour of the offer today, putting the takeover beyond doubt.

A potential competing offer from businessman Andrew Forrest, through his Tattarang investment vehicle, had failed to materialise. Forrest had criticised the deal on the grounds of environmental sustainability and animal welfare.

Huon is based in Tasmania, where the future sustainability of fish farming at sea is the subject of fierce debate. JBS – whose parent company is based in Brazil – has also come in for criticism by environmentalists.

Neil Kearney told Huon shareholders: “Some have been critical of JBS and Huon’s approach to sustainability and animal welfare. We have sought to proactively address these criticisms … in relation to JBS practices, JBS SA, who are the parent company of JBS Australia, have unequivocally advised us, most recently in an announcement made yesterday to the ASX [Australian Stock Exchange] that it supports the principle of ‘no pain, no fear’ and animal welfare across its global operations.”

CEO and co-founder Peter Bender also assured shareholders that industry forecasts expected world demand for salmon to exceed supply, and he noted that prices had rebounded 36% since the depressed levels of 2020, and were expected to remain solid through 2022.

JBS, meanwhile, assured Huon staff that the acquiring company was looking to grow the business sustainably, not cut jobs.

Welcoming the shareholder vote, Neil Kearney said: “Today’s overwhelming shareholder support for the JBS transaction will secure the future of Huon, the company’s dedicated workforce and the hundreds of Tasmanian businesses that work with us. Not only is it a great outcome for shareholders, it’s the right outcome for the business.”

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