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TheStreet Open House

Chinese Firm Fishes for Higher Valuation

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The only thing fishy about HQ Sustainable Maritime (HQS) is the high-quality tilapia and marine bio products that the company produces from its low-cost, vertically integrated operations in China.

Established in 1999, HQS' aquatic farming and processing operations in Hainan Province are in southern China's designated green province, where only environmentally friendly, agri-food related industry and tourism are permitted.

In August 2004, the company acquired Jiahua Marine, which develops, produces and sells marine bio and health care products such as shark cartilage capsules and liver oil products.

Packaged tilapia products are marketed at the retail and wholesale level in the U.S. and Europe under the name Tiloveya and "Lillian's Healthy Gourmet" from the company's headquarters in Seattle.

With world ocean catch of fresh fish on the decline, aquaculture (farm-raised fish) is set to take an increasing share of world fish production. According to the USDA, by 2020, 50% of the U.S. seafood supply will come from aquaculture. In addition to being a healthy and flavorful white fish, tilapia has many favorable characteristics that will insure its continued aquaculture production growth.

Tilapia is disease-resistant, reproduces easily, eats a wide variety of feeds and tolerates a variety of water quality conditions. To illustrate tilapia's growing consumption, from 2000 to 2007, per-capita consumption in the U.S. grew from 0.4 pounds to 1.2 pounds, according to the American Tilapia Association. This places the fish fifth in per capita consumption behind only shrimp, tuna, salmon and pollock.

HQS' financial performance reflects both the growing demand for its products and successful implementation of the company's growth strategy by the management team. From 2005 through the last 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2009, sales grew from $27.6 million to $70.5 million and are expected to grow to approximately $100 million by 2010.

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