JBS wants to become relevant in the global fish market, the last frontier that the company lacks in the animal protein sector, and the purchase of the Australian company Huon Aquaculture is the first step towards that. This is the vision of the company’s global president, Gilberto Tomazoni. According to him, the company wants to repeat the expansion it had in other segments, such as chicken, pork and processed foods.
“It is a segment that continues to grow year after year and there is no religious barrier to growth. I can’t say how long it will take for us to have this relevance, but what I can say is that we learned quickly”, says Tomazoni in an interview with Estadão. “It’s much more than an acquisition: it’s a strategic move.”
On Friday, 6, JBS signed an agreement to buy the operation of Huon for about R$ 1.65 billion, or 425 million Australian dollars. The deal is still pending approval from Australian regulators as well as approval from Huon shareholders. However, the company’s main shareholders, Peter and Frances Bender (who own 53% of the business), have recommended the deal saying it is in the best interests of the group.
JBS’ debut in its own fish production takes place in a market where it already has an important operation. In Australia, the Brazilian company already has more than 12 thousand employees and has beef exports as its main business. Recently, the company bought Rivalea, the country’s leader in pork production. However, Huon’s operation works practically to supply the domestic market: only 15% of fish are exported.
For Tomazoni, these export numbers may grow, as the company has extensive experience in this market. “The Australian market will continue to be the focus, but there is a whole premium fresh produce export market. And if the deal is approved, Huon will have access to our entire distribution, marketing and sales structure. We are going to have a great synergy in this”, he says.
But the market that Huon should access for an increase in exports will be Asia, according to the executive. In other words, the fish, at least initially, will not be exported to Brazil. In March of this year, JBS debuted in the fish market with a new Seara line, with products such as tilapia fillet, salmon loin (a Huon specialty) and shrimp, among others.
For David Lelis, partner at Valor Investimentos, the market bet that the company is spending now to have a much more positive future cash flow. “It’s not an equal market, but one that combines well with the others in which it already operates”, he says.
For Saulo Sturaro, a partner at JK Capital, the risk of acquisition is low and the company should soon make new acquisitions in this area. “Fish consumption went from 9 kilos per person to more than 20 kilos today. Looking at the size of the company and the synergies it would achieve, it seems like a very interesting expansion”, he says.
Information is from the newspaper The State of São Paulo.
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