Field Notes: Ocean 14 Capital Fund hits €160m; KKR’s United Malt bid clears regulatory hurdle; and rough seas ahead for global aquaculture

Ocean 14 Capital’s impact fund surpasses €150m target; Rabobank expects rough seas ahead for aquaculture; KKR’s United Malt bid clears regulatory hurdle; and Platinum Equity considers Accolade Wines bid. Welcome to Field Notes, the start-of-the-week briefing for our valued subscribers only.

First look

Ocean 14 eyes €200m year-end close
The Ocean 14 Capital Fund surpassed its €150 million fundraising target following a €20 million commitment from Convex Group Limited and €10 million from family offices and individual investors.

The impact vehicle has now raised €160 million and the firm expects to close the fund on €200 million by the end of the year.

The fund aims to support ocean health by investing in areas such as land-based aquaculture systems, sustainable fishery technologies and fish meal alternatives, among others.

Further LPs in the fund include the Constitutional Reserve Fund of Monaco, European Investment Fund, Skype founder Niklas Zennström and Ingka Group, via its investment arm.

Ocean 14 expects to build out a portfolio of 20-25 businesses within three years and has already backed five companies, one of which is Ava Ocean.

The Norwegian start-up has received the first license granted by the Norwegian government to harvest seafood such as scallops and sea cucumber from the seabed, which has been banned in the country for almost 30-years due to dredging practices that harm the marine ecosystem.

The company uses a precision-picking system, which Ocean 14 believes can be scaled globally for the benefit of marine life.

Read the full story here.

They said it

“We must protect farmland from becoming an investment strategy for huge corporations and ensure independent family farmers are not locked out of opportunities to thrive”

US Senator Cory Booker introduces a new federal bill, the Farmland for Farmers Act, which seeks to restrict consolidation of farm assets by corporations, pensions and investment funds


KKR’s United Malt bid progresses
The bid by KKR-backed European firm Malteries Soufflet to acquire Australian Securities Exchange-listed United Malt for around A$1.5 billion ($984 million; €899 million) has cleared a major hurdle.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the country’s competition watchdog, has said it does not oppose the deal and will not conduct a public review into it.

United Malt’s board continues to recommend that shareholders vote in favour of the proposed scheme of arrangement, which would see Malteries Soufflet, itself a subsidiary of InVivo Group’s Soufflet Group, pay A$5 per share for the business, a premium of 45.3 percent to the last closing price before the offer was made public.

United Malt floated on the ASX in March 2020, following a demerger from its parent company GrainCorp, while KKR bought into Malteries Soufflet in 2021 alongside co-investors Bpifrance and Crédit Agricole Group.


Rabobank expects rough seas ahead for aquaculture
Rabobank expects challenging global conditions for salmon producers to improve before those of their shrimp-focused peers, but both have challenges to content with.

The bank’s Global Aquaculture Update for the second half of 2023 examines global markets for salmon, shrimp and fish meal. Rabobank analysts wrote that each of these markets face a second half likely to be the most challenging period since the pandemic, due largely to softening demand and the prospect of higher fish meal prices.

The report crowns European salmon production as the world’s most profitable aquaculture industry, following a period of constricted supply, which is expected to ease in Q3. Rabobank notes Norwegian salmon producers’ outlook has been clouded by the imposition of a 25 percent resource tax earlier this year that is compounded by an existing 22 percent corporate tax.

“It is not yet determined exactly how profitability will be estimated or how land-based, closed-containment and offshore production will be considered.

“We expect the tax will have negative effects on investment and supply growth in Norway,” analysts wrote. “The next important event will be the parliamentary election in 2025, as the opposition parties, if victorious, have promised to reverse the tax.”

Potentially heightened fish meal prices resulting from June’s El Niño-inspired cancellation of Peru’s fishing season is among the factors Rabo says are conspiring to present especially challenging conditions to the shrimp industry.

In addition to persistently weak demand in China and the US, and potential oversupply due to growth in Ecuadorian production expected to reach 18 percent by the end of 2023, Rabobank writes shrimp producers should expect high fish meal costs to continue.

“High prices will undoubtedly create hard choices for feed formulators. However, with the current easing of soymeal prices, we expect aqua feed prices to stay relatively stable in 2H 2023, with formulators becoming more reliant on vegetable proteins and oils.”


Carlyle’s Accolade talks
Further media reports have emerged in Australia about a potential sale of part or all of The Carlyle Group’s Accolade Wines, the country’s largest privately-owned wine company.

The Australian Financial Review has reported that US firm Platinum Equity has been running the rule over the business, although there was little more detail than that on how advanced its plans may or may not be.

Carlyle brought in Rothschild & Co earlier this year to pursue refinancing options for Accolade’s large debt pile, and was also reported to be exploring a potential sale of its House of Arras brand, as well as other in-house brands and assets.

The Carlyle Group acquired the business for A$1 billion ($660 million; €598 million) in 2018 from CHAMP Private Equity.

It has been a difficult few years for some of Australia’s largest winemakers, as the effective closure of the Chinese export market during the pandemic led to a scramble for new avenues into which to deploy product.

Ongoing inflation and cost-of-living pressures have also seen a ‘premiumization’ effect take hold, with customers buying fewer but more expensive bottles of wine, leading to a decline in the below-A$10-per-bottle segment.

VC fundraising

Revalue Nature, a British climate tech start-up, has raised a $10 million Series A co-led by Ecosystem Integrity Fund and SJF Ventures, two US-based venture capital firms focused on climate and impact.

Konscious Foods, a Canadian plant-based seafood brand, closed a $26m seed financing round backed by Protein Industries Canada, Zynik Capital and Walter Group, among others. The company offers a range of plant-based seafood products including sushi rolls, Onigiri stuffed rice snacks and poke bowls, available at North American retailers.

The Oater, a German oat milk start-up, raised a seven-figure euro pre-seed funding round led by Rüdiger Koppelmann, CEO of SodaStream. The company has developed a machine to produce fresh and sustainable oat milk with local ingredients at the point of sale to reduce CO2 emissions caused by transport and packaging.

Beleaf, an Indonesian smart farming start-up, raised $2 million in a seed funding round led by led by Alpha JWC Ventures, with participation from BRI Ventures’ Sembrani Nusantara, MDI-Finch Capital’s Arise, and several angel investors.

Also in the news…

Bank of America-led $500 million Gabon debt-for-nature swap delayed
The African country and its bond arranger are delaying the pricing of the new bonds, citing high market volatility (Yahoo! News).

Stafford makes head of client solutions hire
Stafford Capital Partners has hired Amundi senior vice-president Joe Carrabes as head of client solutions in a show of intent for its North America operations (Cision).

UK natural capital study eyes private capital boost
A UK Parliament committee is soliciting feedback by September 22 to inform policy designed to “scale up private finance into environmental markets”, among other goals (UK govt).

Brazil’s BRF looks to expand in Saudi Arabian market with joint venture
Brazilian meatpacker BRF has announced a joint venture with Halal Products Development Co, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia (Meat + Poultry).

Today’s letter was prepared by Binyamin Ali, Chris Janiec and Daniel Kemp