JBS wins shareholder approval for Huon Aquaculture takeover

The approval, along with a commitment from JBS to animal welfare, should see it overcome opposition from Tattarang to its takeover.

Brazilian agribusiness giant JBS has received approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board for its takeover of Australian Securities Exchange-listed salmon farmer Huon Aquaculture.

The agreement will see JBS acquire 100 percent of Huon’s shares for A$3.85 ($2.91; €2.49) per share in a cash deal worth A$423 million.

The listed firm launched a strategic review in February 2021 after receiving several unsolicited offers for the business, following a large fall in earnings and write-downs on assets.

The family office of Australian billionaire Andrew Forrest, Tattarang, has increased its stake in Huon to 18.5 percent over the course of 2021 and indicated this week that it intended to vote its shares against the takeover because of concerns over animal welfare, unless JBS made an unequivocal commitment to animal welfare and environmental sustainability.

In an update on October 28, JBS said: “JBS unequivocally supports the principle of ‘no pain, no fear’ animal welfare across its global operations… JBS has an uncompromising global commitment to sustainability and animal welfare.

“This commitment extends to Huon, where JBS intends to build on the company’s strong foundations and uphold the highest standards of fish health and sustainable farming practices, from water management to animal welfare, net-zero emissions and stocking densities.

This appears to have overcome Tattarang’s concerns, with 99.77 percent of shareholder votes cast in support of the takeover at Huon’s annual general meeting on October 29.

Huon revealed in August that Tattarang itself had previously expressed interest in acquiring Huon and had submitted a non-binding, indicative proposal. It was then invited to participate in the strategic review process and submit a binding offer but decided not to do so. The JBS offer was “materially higher” than Tattarang’s in any case, it said.

Tattarang CIO John Hartman told Agri Investor in November 2020 that the firm was “always on the lookout for acquisition targets that fit within our strategic verticals,” with aquaculture one of those.

The firm has developed the Leeuwin Coast brand for its production of mussels and oysters, with an oyster farm at Albany on Western Australia’s southern coastline home to the world’s first edible Akoya oyster farm (a variety more commonly known for its pearls).