(The Deal) -- Agricultural giant Cargill is set to make a big splash in salmon nutrition with an agreement to buy Norwegian fish feed maker Ewos AS from its private equity owners for €1.35 billion ($1.5 billion).
The acquisition, which was announced on Monday, will add to Cargill's existing aquaculture activities in Mexico, Central America, China, the United States, Southeast Asia, India and Ecuador. It comes about a month after it inked a $30 million joint venture with Ecuador's Naturisa SA to build a shrimp-feed facility that will churn out 130,000 metric tons annually starting in 2017. And in February, Cargill unveiled a $7.8 million investment for fish-feed production at a facility in Puebla, Mexico.
Through the Ewos purchase, Cargill will become a big fish in the global salmon market, producing more than 1.2 million metric tons of feed a year for the world's biggest salmon farmers.
The latest move comes as Cargill also bulks up on dry land. Earlier this month, it agreed to buy FMC Corp.'s (FMC - Get Report) pectin food-ingredient operations for an undisclosed amount and completed the $440 million swoop on Archer Daniels Midland Co.'s (ADM - Get Report) industrial chocolates business.
Ewos's new owner will inherit seven manufacturing facilities - three in Norway and one each in Chile, Canada, Scotland and Vietnam - as well as two research and development centers in Norway and Chile. Ewos boasts of having one-third of the world market for salmon and trout feed.
"With the need for protein expected to grow by 70% worldwide by 2050, farmed fish and shrimp offers one solution to meeting this demand, and Cargill intends to play a major role in this growing and important market," said Sarena Lin, who is president of Cargill's fish and nutrition business, in a statement.
Cargill is buying Ewos from Altor Equity Partners and Bain Capital, who reeled in Ewos from Cermaq for about 6.5 billion Norwegian kroner ($788.3 million) two years ago as part of the seller's defense against a hostile bid from Marine Harvest. The following year Cermaq agreed to a Nkr8.8 billion takeover by Japan's Mitsubishi.
"Since we became owners of Ewos in 2013 and having created a truly independent company, we have achieved significant operational improvements across all facets of the business," said Ed Han, managing director at Bain Capital Europe and Ewos board member "This includes R&D investment as well as substantial efficiency enhancements which has positioned Ewos as a key global strategic asset for anyone with the ambition to enter this sector."
Tor Krussell, head of communications at Altor, said that while the firm normally keeps companies in its portfolio for an average of six years - and eight years for exits last year - this deal came about quickly after approaches from several interested buyers. "This is very unusual to us, but sometimes it happens," he said, adding that there was no formal auction or need for external advisers. He declined to give returns but said that a comparison of the purchase and sales price "gives quite a good picture."
Back in 2013, Carnegie Investment Bank advised Altor and Bain on the Ewos purchase.
The acquisition is subject to customary regulatory requirements and approvals.
Cargill declined to disclose who its advisers were.