Grieg Seafood has assured the 160 plus staff who work at its Shetland base that operations will continue as normal until the review on its future is completed – possibly before the end of next year.
The Norwegian fish farming company, which announced a third quarter group loss yesterday, sent shockwaves around the community when it disclosed that it was evaluating plans to sell the business and concentrate its salmon farming efforts on Norway and Canada.
Grieg had already announced plans to cease operations at five farms on Skye once the current harvest has been completed.
The company expects the Shetland sale to be completed by the second half of 2021, although it stressed it has not set a timescale.
Apart from SalMar, almost all salmon companies have seen their results dented by the fallout from Covid-19, but Grieg appears to have suffered the most.
Furthermore, Grieg Shetland has been struggling with various biological issues over the past few years, although it is now getting on top of them, which should make the business more attractive to potential bidders.
Speculation over who is expected to be in the frame is likely to centre around existing players such as Cooke Aquaculture, Mowi or Scottish Sea Farms, a company jointly owned by SalMar and Leroy Seafood. Bakkafrost might have been interested at one time, but would appear to have its hands full integrating last year’s acquisition, The Scottish Salmon Company.
A bid by a Scottish-owned company cannot be ruled out either.
Grieg CEO Andreas Kvame said there had been steady improvements in fish health and he was grateful to the efforts of employees for achieving that.
He added: “At the same time, the Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted all of our markets. In light of these circumstances, we have to prioritise resources and investments and make some tough decisions.”
He said the company’s Norwegian and Canadian operations had the “largest potential for sustainable growth”.
Grant Cumming, the managing director of Grieg Shetland said that thanks to the hard work of the staff, the operation had seen improvements in fish health and welfare, adding: “Grieg Seafood regrets that this review brings uncertainty to them, and the company aims to complete the process as quickly as possible.”