Austevoll acquisition secures EPAX's fish oil supply

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Stock market

Norwegian fish oil producer EPAX is to be acquired by compatriot
Austevoll Seafood - a move that will give it a vertically
integrated supply from fishing to omega-3 oil supply and avoid
potential sourcing problems for the future.

Austevoll has signed a letter of intent to acquire the shares of EPAX's majority shareholder Ferd Private Equity Fund. Ferd presently holds close to 100 per cent of shares in EPAX.

EPAX CEO Bjorn Refsum told NutraIngredients.com that the company has not experienced any problems with crude oil sourcing to date; it always keeps a year's worth of supply at hand.

However since demand for crude fish oil is increasing from the fish-farming and omega-3 industries and, according to Refsum, 100 per cent of the ocean's capacity is presently being utilised, the company identified the potential for a scarcity in supply in the future.

"We assume there will be an imbalance in the future,"​ said Refsum. "We have been working on securing supply for the past year."

But he said it is too early to say whether EPAX will source its oil uniquely from Austevoll, which produces 50,000 tonnes a year. Certainly it will not be changing anything from the next quarter, as it takes a look at its logistics.

"We have good contacted suppliers at the moment, and have a 100 per cent secure supply,"​ Refsum said.

The company presently sources oil of its specified quality from meal plants in around the world, including South America and Africa.

Refsum said he could not speculate as to whether securing a source of crude oil through allegiances and acquisitions was likely to be a trend that other omega-3 suppliers would follow. But for EPAX's part he said the step is regarded as "extremely positive for the long-term"​.

"The market will look to EPAX as even more robust for supply,"​ he said.Epax announced the demerger from its former parent company Pronova Biocare last March. Its 2006 turnover was approximately NOK 230-240m (€28.05 - 29.27m).

According to Ferd, it has a 30 per cent share in the global market for high-grade omega-3; in 2006 it utilised around 5,000 tonnes of fish oil, for 1,500 tonnes of end product. The company is said to be experiencing growth of around 20 per cent per annum.

To help support this growth the company recently announced its plan to expand production at its Aalesund plant; this plan will not be affected by the acquisition.

The acquisition by Austevoll, for an undisclosed sum, is expected to complete at the beginning of February.

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