A £225m bid for Huon Aquaculture by Brazilian meat processor JBS appears to have hit a bump in the road following a late intervention by an Australian mining magnate.
Billionaire Andrew Forrest has increased his stake in Huon with an implicit message on video calling on the company to make salmon farming more sustainable or face a possible shareholder challenge.
Forrest, who is Australia’s richest man, bought into Tasmania-based Huon in June with a stake of just over 7%. The Australian media are reporting that he has recently more than doubled his holding to 18.5% through his investment vehicle Tattarang. If so, it would make him the second largest shareholder in Huon after JBS, which also owns a meat processing business in Australia.
JBS made its AUS $425m offer last weekend, stressing that it was subject to customary conditions, including the relevant regulatory, judicial and shareholder approvals. It expects the deal to be finalised by the end of the year.
Financial analyst Sam Baker told Australia’s ABC News that while Forrest’s decision to increase his stake did not yet amount to a bid, he could use his shares to vote either for or against any takeover attempt by JBS. He added that it also looked as if his intervention was designed to have some influence on the way Huon is run.
Forrest has indicated he was not happy with what he has read in the documents outlining the JBS bid, because it did not mention animal husbandry or the environment, which he thinks should be the two top priorities for both JBS and Huon.
He has made no secret of his desire to increase his involvement in the aquaculture industry by developing a large shellfish farm hub in Western Australia.