Deepwater fishing company Sealord has entered into an agreement to acquire privately-owned Independent Fisheries - the largest financial transaction in the seafood sector since the Sealord deal in 1992, which was part of the Māori Treaty Settlement. This transaction will make Sealord New Zealand’s biggest seafood business.
Subject to satisfying a number of conditions, including clearance from the Commerce Commission and consent from the Overseas Investment Office, Sealord will acquire the Christchurch-based Independent Fisheries business, which includes approximately 46,000 metric tonne of quota, two owned and one chartered deepwater factory fishing vessels, 500 plus vessel crew and staff, and a cold storage facility. The date of settlement will be dependent on when the various conditions and approvals are met.
Sealord Board Chair Jamie Tuuta said Sealord is an inter-generational fishing company and the purchase of Independent Fisheries further cements this position for the long-term.
“Our investment in Independent Fisheries is based on a strong belief in the business, the long-term sustainability of the commercial fishing sector in New Zealand and the ability to deliver increased returns to Sealord’s shareholders, half of whom are iwi.
“Māori have a strong affinity with the moana, kaimoana and fishing. The fisheries settlement allocating iwi ownership of quota, including through the purchase of 50% of Sealord, underpins that cultural value system. This transaction grows iwi quota ownership, enhancing our strong connection with the moana in Aotearoa.”
Sealord CEO Doug Paulin says ownership of the Independent Fisheries business is an “incredibly unique” opportunity as acquisitions of this type and quality rarely come along in deepwater fishing.
“The business is an excellent fit for Sealord both operationally and culturally. Independent Fisheries has a strong family-based culture built over many years by the late Charles Shadbolt, who had a passion for looking after his people and the wider community, and I am confident that Sealord can continue this proud tradition. We look forward to welcoming Independent Fisheries employees to the Sealord whānau,” he says.
Independent Fisheries Managing Director Mark Allison says the decision made by the Board of Directors and the owners will enhance the future growth of the company.
“This is a proud moment for our business and for its founding family, who have built it from its humble beginnings to the successful company it is today. There are immediate synergies that Independent Fisheries and the Sealord Group of companies can utilise both internally and externally that will provide excellent opportunities for the existing staff, customers, and suppliers to grow with the Sealord Group. In practical terms this means streamlining catch plans, logistics and innovation, with an emphasis on loyal customer service, which has been the backbone of Independent Fisheries business since its establishment.”
Independent Fisheries was founded by Howard Shadbolt and had its beginnings as a small fish and chip shop in the Christchurch suburb of Linwood in 1956. Since that time and under the management of the late Charles Shadbolt (Howard’s son) and Mark Allison, Independent Fisheries has grown into one of New Zealand's major privately-owned fishing businesses, with the fourth largest deepwater quota package in New Zealand. Within the Sealord Group, Independent Fisheries will continue to be operated by its current employees.