Executives from Brazilian meat processing giant JBS have been in Tasmania surveying its new seafood company Huon Aquaculture ahead of its takeover next Wednesday.
Key points:JBS has been visiting Huon Aquaculture sites this weekThe company is foreshadowing more investment in aquacultureJBS CEO Brent Eastwood has reassured Huon staff that it will be business as usual
Already, the company's Australian chief, Brent Eastwood has foreshadowed further investment in aquaculture in the country.
"This will be our first foray into aquaculture," he said.
"We believe it will be the start of a new platform worldwide."
In Tasmania, JBS joins Tassal — Australia's biggest atlantic salmon producer and the only publicly listed salmon company — and Petuna, which is owned by the New Zealand-based business Sealord Group.
Last month Australia's Foreign Investment Review Board green-lit a takeover plan by JBS.
The takeover bid, announced in August, valued the company founded by Tasmanians Peter and Frances Bender at about $550 million, including debt.
No onshore salmon farming for Huon
Mr Eastwood has hosed down talk of moving salmon farming onshore, saying the company has not yet seen evidence "to back that up," despite the farming technique being investigated as an alternative in other parts of the world.
"We'll watch that carefully," he said.
"We haven't seen anything yet that means we shouldn't be continuing what we're doing. It's a very sustainable business now, a clean business, even though there's a lot of noise from certain areas."
JBS is among the world's biggest meat processors, with operations that span the globe processing beef, chicken and pork. However, it was a novice in the seafood space.
"We are very new to the salmon industry. We are very impressed with the Huon set-up, the team, the strategy. We've done a lot of due diligence over the past few months and everything we've seen has further endorsed that it's a great business and a great company, " Mr Eastwood said
"We think there are areas in their business that we can add good expertise and help.
"We listen, we watch, we learn, and we spend money."
Huon Aquaculture will make up about 2 per cent of JBS' global operations.
Business as usual for Huon
Speaking on ABC radio Hobart, Mr Eastwood reassured staff and suppliers that it was business as usual for Huon.
Australian aquaculture grows up
Moves by a global meat processing giant to take over a local salmon farming champion suggests Australia's fledgling aquaculture industry is finally growing up.
"We've spoken to many. We've given our strategy, our view and listened to what they have to say," he said.
"They've had concerns, but they've been going through a sales process for quite some time which is very uncomfortable and challenging so they're looking forward to a stable future with JBS.
"We buy companies, but we don't sell."
Mr Eastwood and John Berry — JBS' head of corporate and regulatory affairs — also caught up with Huon's stakeholders, including the Bob Brown Foundation, The Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection, and author and industry critic Richard Flanagan.
"We wanted to be open and transparent with everything we do. We requested those meetings. We wanted to listen to their concerns," Mr Eastwood said.
"They were good meetings. They were obviously very passionate about what they believe, and we have no problem with that. We listened, and we will continue to listen to all stakeholders in Tasmania,"
JBS put on notice
Environmentalist Bob Brown said JBS "made a few commitments" but did not commit to "providing us with baseline studies for Huon Aquaculture."
Mr Brown and the Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection urged JBS to support the Dennes Point Declaration, a document which supports an immediate transition out of the sea and into land-based farms.
"They said they were here to listen to us. We said we were here to listen to them. They had nothing to offer … but when it came to what their future plans were they had nothing to offer," Mr Brown said.
"We got a direct commitment that they (JBS) will not damage the environment," he said.
JBS already operates in Tasmania with a meat processing plant at Longford in the north of the state.
Huon will now be taken off the stock exchange.
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Posted 12 Nov 202112 Nov 2021Fri 12 Nov 2021 at 5:16am, updated 12 Nov 202112 Nov 2021Fri 12 Nov 2021 at 5:45amShareCopy linkFacebookTwitterArticle share optionsShare this onFacebookTwitterLinkedInSend this byEmailMessengerCopy linkWhatsApp