The future of Lighthouse Caledonia, Scotland’s third largest salmon producer, looks much brighter as a result of an inward investment deal worth £17m, safeguarding more than 200 jobs in Scotland.

Northern Link Ltd, a global private equity investor advised by Edinburgh-based First Mercantile Partners LLP, has taken a controlling interest in the company following a new share issue. Northern Link currently has a number of investments in aquaculture and marine-related companies around the world, including Norway, Peru and Russia.

Lighthouse Caledonia is headquartered in Paisley and operates a processing plant in Argyll and more than 40 sites dotted up the West Coast of Scotland and the Western Isles. The company plans to harvest roughly 23,000 tonnes of high quality Scottish salmon in 2009. More than 60 per cent of sales are within the UK market with the rest exported to France, Belgium, the rest of Europe, the USA and Japan. The majority of customers are other businesses – secondary processors, wholesalers and distributors, the major salmon smokers and the food service industry – but sales are also made directly to retailers.

Lighthouse Caledonia suffered a cash flow crisis in 2008, and around 130 staff lost their jobs at the end of last year when the company closed its processing plant in Stornoway. Lighthouse Caledonia came perilously close to bankruptcy earlier this year, a fate averted by the successful share issue and restructuring of the company’s capital structure, approved by the company’s shareholders.

Jim Mullins of First Mercantile Partners, spokesman for the new owners, stated: ‘This major strategic investment in Lighthouse Caledonia shows how optimistic we are about the company’s position in the Scottish salmon market. As a result of this share issue, Lighthouse Caledonia will be able to increase its working capital and reduce and restructure its outstanding debt. As controlling shareholder, Northern Link intends to work closely with management and other shareholders to enhance the current operations, expand its markets and opportunities for growth and increase shareholder value.’

OddGeir Oddsen, Lighthouse Caledonia’s chief executive, said: ‘This decision transforms the future of the company.

It shores up our balance sheet and removes any problems we had with cash flow. We are now in a much stronger position, which will allow us to take advantage of opportunities which come along. It also greatly increases the Scottish ownership of the company, allowing greater autonomy going forward. Many companies in this sector are rigidly controlled from Norway but a higher level of Scottish ownership will allow more decisions to be taken at a local level.’