Speculation over NTS grows following shareholder group bid
A bid by a shareholders’ group to win full control of the NTS integrated aquaculture group has sparked a flurry of speculation in the Norwegian media about the future shape of the business.
The group, which already owns more than 50% of the shares in NTS, has unveiled an offer worth NOK 13.2bn (just over £1bn) on the grounds that it wants to “protect shareholder value”. It also wants to replace the current board, headed by President and CEO Gustav Witzøe.
The shareholder group is said to include the fresh and frozen salmon supplier Nils Williksen AS along with Terboli Invest (formerly Vite AS) and Rodo Invest, three owners who have recently submitted demands for an extraordinary general meeting of NTS to elect a new board.
NTS is a combined salmon farming and aquaculture services provider business, which now includes Norway Royal Salmon (NRS) following a successful takeover battle against SalMar last summer.
Last week the company announced it was merging NRS with SalmoNor, making it the world’s sixth largest salmon farmer. It also owns Frøy Norway’s main supplier of wellboats and other aquaculture-related vessels.
The rebel group said in an Oslo Stock Exchange announcement that it wants to protect and further develop share values, by continuing to explore alternatives for shareholders in the future including the opportunity to sell their shares. They also want to improve corporate governance. They are preparing a tender document which will be submitted to the Stock Exchange for approval.
The announcement has opened up the intriguing prospect that they may want to sell on the fish farming division with the intriguing possibility of SalMar, which lost out to NTS in the battle for Norway Royal Salmon last summer, being in the frame as a potential purchaser.
Pareto Securities analyst Carl-Emil Kjølås Johannessen told the business news outlet e.24 yesterday that Mowi and Cermaq could also be interested. So far none of the companies mentioned have commented publicly. Johannessen also said much depends on what Helge Gåsø, who owns 37% of the shares in NTS and worth around NOK 5bn, decides what to do.
Sparebank 1 analyst Knut-Ivor Bakken told Finansavisen that there are a number of outcomes including the possibility the group may not win full control after all because the offer of NOK 105 per share may not be enough to tempt Gåsø.
The next few weeks are likely to prove more than interesting for NTS.