JBS faces competition for Huon Aquaculture bid

The battle for the Tasmania-based salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture has taken on a new intensity.

The Brazilian meat giant JBS launched a parallel bid at the weekend after the Australian mining magnate Dr Andrew Forrest more than doubled his holding in Huon. Dr Forrest has also called on Huon to continue with its move towards a more sustainable model.

There are also unconfirmed reports that Cooke Aquaculture of Canada may be preparing to launch a bid.

Dr Forrest, who indicated he is concerned over a lack of fish welfare and environmental governance in the JBS offer, is refusing to back down.

He holds a PhD in marine science and said his investment in Huon is being driven by a determination to turn what he described as a “little Aussie champion’s attention to greater environmental priorities”.

It is less than three weeks since the world’s largest meat processor launched its £225m bid, which initially looked as if it would go through unopposed.

But Dr Forrest – Australia’s richest man – appears to have had other ideas. He instructed his investment vehicle Tattarang to raise his stake from 7% to 18.5%. Dr Forrest is keen to expand his aquaculture interests and is currently developing a large shellfish farm hub in Western Australia.

In a flanking move at the weekend, JBS launched a new bid at the same share price of AUS $3.85 per share in an off-market offer.

JBS also said that it welcomed Dr Forrest’s call to prioritise fish farming welfare and the environment, adding that it shared his view that good business must also be good for the environment.

JBS added: “This commitment extends to Huon, where JBS intends to build on the legacy of the Bender family, upholding the highest standards for superior quality, fish health and sustainable farming practices – from water management to animal welfare, net zero emissions and stock densities.”

So far there has been no comment from Cooke Aquaculture on a possible bid.