Cooke enters LatAm and shrimp markets with Seajoy acquisition

The deal demonstrates the PSP Investments-backed company’s ambition to become the world’s largest seafood conglomerate, according to a source.

The parent company of Cooke Aquaculture, a private seafood company backed by Canadian pension PSP Investments, has acquired Seajoy Seafood, a shrimp producer based in Honduras, for an undisclosed sum.

A source familiar with the deal told Agri Investor it continued New Brunswick-based Cooke’s decade-long effort to transform from a modest eastern Canada-based seafood platform into one of the largest seafood conglomerates in the world.

The source said the Seajoy deal demonstrated the scope of Cooke’s ambition, despite being smaller than previous acquisitions, such as that of Houston-based Omega Protein, Meridian Salmon Farms of the UK and Icicle Seafoods, a diversified seafood processor and wholesaler acquired from Paine Schwartz Partners in mid-2016.

“Shrimp farming and salmon farming are, by far, the most valuable species – not necessarily by volume, but in terms of value, those are the two,” the source said.

The Seajoy acquisition allows Cooke to establish a presence in a region stretching from Ecuador to southern Mexico that is among the largest shrimp production zones in the world.

“For Cooke to dip its toe into shrimp farming, it makes a lot of sense strategically,” the source said, adding that Seajoy’s focus on organic shrimp made it a particularly attractive target.

Founded in Ecuador in 1979, Seajoy produces organic Pacific white shrimp at seven farms located in the coastal regions of Nicaragua and Honduras and the Gulf of Fonseca bordering Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador. The company also operates processing plants, hatcheries and breeding facilities in the Gulf and on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua that produce shrimp for customers in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

While no single company has established a dominant position across all the most important seafood species of shrimp, salmon, tuna, and scallops, the source said, Cooke now comes closest. Hybrid capital PSP provided to Cooke has been instrumental in the effort, the source added.

“They supported a Canadian company that had already started to build a diversified seafood conglomerate, but with PSP capital they could shift gears and aim higher. They have certainly done so,” the source said.

“This is the biggest, the most successfully aquaculture company on this planet. You don’t see the random PE shop or family office or pension or sovereign wealth fund doing this.”

Seajoy declined to comment and PSP did not reply to a message seeking further detail by press time.