Tasmanian salmon giant Huon Aquaculture has entered into an agreement with meat processor JBS for 100 per cent aquisition.
The company's board undertook a strategic review, after receiving approaches for the business, after a year which saw significant operating losses due to COVID-19 restrictions. A sale process was launched by Huon financial advisor Grant Samuel and law firm Ashurst.
On Friday night, Huon Aquaculture announced to shareholders that it had entered into a Scheme Implementation Deed with JBS to acquire 100 per cent of Huon shares, by way of a Scheme of Arrangement.
Under the terms of the scheme, shareholders will receive $3.85 cash per share.
The vote by the Huon Aquaculture board was unanimous, and recommended shareholders vote in favour of the scheme.
Each company director, including founders and major shareholders Peter and Frances Bender, intends to vote all shares held or controlled by them in favour - representing approximately 50 per cent of Huon's issued shares.
The Scheme is subject to limited conditions and is not subject to financing or due diligence.
Huon chairman Neil Kearney said the scheme provided certainty for shareholders and a compelling premium in cash to recent trading prices for Huon shares.
"Having fully considered a range of alternatives as part of a comprehensive strategic review process, the board believes this transaction provides Huon shareholders with an opportunity to realise significant value for their shares," he said.
Huon managing director and chief executive Peter Bender said he did not anticipate any disruption to business operations.
"The recommended acquisition of Huon by JBS represents an excellent outcome for our shareholders, partners and staff," he said.
"This is a testament to the strong position Huon holds in the Australian salmon market.
JBS Australia president and chief executive Brent Eastwood said the acquisition enabled the company to further grow its Australian protein business and strengthen its presence with consumers and customers.
"We look forward to continue growing on the leading salmon business Huon has created and working with its employees, customers and stakeholders to help the company realise this next phase of growth," he said.
Huon shareholders will have the opportunity to vote on the scheme at a shareholder meeting, expected to be held in October.
If the conditions are satisfied, the scheme is set to be implemented in November 2021.
Tasmanian Alliance for Marine Protection co-chair Peter George said Tasmanians should be sickened by the announcement, and that the company [JBS] was associated with industrial scale corruption, tax evasion and the closure and sacking of Tasmanian workers.
"No good can come of the sell-out and communities around the state will stand together to oppose a giant multinational that has already shown its utter disregard for Tasmania and Tasmanians," he said.
An EMRS poll released on Friday revealed that 72 per cent of people polled rated the aquaculture industry as important of very important to Tasmania.
The poll, commissioned by the Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association, interviewed 1000 people from a variety of backgrounds across the state.
TSGA spokesperson Julian Amos said it confirmed that the majority of Tasmanians supported the industry.
"In fact, 78 per cent of the respondents did not oppose the salmon industry in Tasmania," he said.
"The salmon industry in Tasmania is always continuously improving - whether that be through research and development or through listening and engaging with the community.
"We will continue to listen and work with our communities. At the end of the day, we all want the same thing - healthy Tasmanian waterways - healthy for fish, healthy for communities and healthy for the ecosystem.
"This feedback will enable the industry to improve its communications and engagement with Tasmanians; and that will always be a good thing."