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Tri Marine International denies “minority interest” sale was to finance its local cannery

fili@samoanews.com

Tri Marine International has dismissed any speculations and claims that a European company’s acquisition of a “minority interest” in Tri Marine was a way for Tri Marine to secure capital for its newly planned canning plant, Samoa Tuna Processors Inc., in American Samoa.
 
ACQUISITION
 
Bolton Group International and Tri Marine announced in early October this year that they had reached a definitive agreement for the acquisition by Bolton Group — of an important minority interest in Tri Marine, giving birth to a large integrated tuna company.
 
The agreement, subject to European Union Commission approval, gives Bolton Group access to Tri Marine’s sources of tuna and tuna products and opens the door for potential growth outside Europe. Bolton is one of the largest branded tuna companies in Europe, according to the Tri Marine statement at the time.
 
It also said proceeds from the purchase would be used mainly to fund Tri Marine’s strategic growth initiatives, which focus on development of diversified sources of fish supply from sustainable fishing grounds, caught by responsible fishing vessels and adding value at or near the source of the catch for shared economic benefit, social good and long term security of supply.
 
“We have been working like family with Bolton Group for a long time,” said Renato Curto, President and CEO of Tri Marine. “Our close commercial and personal relationships have long been a source of mutual strength to Tri Marine and Bolton Group. This investment by Bolton Group in Tri Marine signifies that we are officially part of the same Group.”
 
THE SPECULATION
 
According to trade industry online news outlet, Undercurrent News, Bolton is registered in the Netherlands but operates from a base in Milan, Italy and owns the Rio Mare and Saupiquet canned seafood brands in Italy and France, respectively.
 
Based on unidentified industry sources, Undercurrent News reports the move for the acquisition was based on the need for capital to finance planned expansions, such as Tri Marine’s planned plant in American Samoa.
 
One unidentified source alleges that Tri Marine is currently starting work on the plant by self-financing, and some of the subsidies it had hoped for from various sources are either no longer available, less than expected, or delayed.
 
TRI MARINE REPLY
 
Responding to Samoa News questions, Tri Marine vice president of production Dan Sullivan said the investment by Bolton in Tri Marine has been concluded after receiving EU Commission approval of the proposed transaction.
 
“The EU Commission review was designed to ensure there were no antitrust issues raised by the transaction,” he said, adding that the US government has no additional regulatory requirements for such an acquisition.
 
As to speculations and claims about the needed financial capital for the company’s planned Samoa Tuna Processors cannery plant, Sullivan pointed out that the “decision to purchase the cannery in American Samoa and to rebuild it into a modern, large scale tuna cannery was made long before the investment was contemplated by Bolton.”
 
(Tri Marine purchased the former operations of COS Samoa Packing in Atu’u.)
 
Sullivan also noted the previous delays in commencing the cannery portion of the project were due to the delays in obtaining the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers building permit for the seawall and dock project.
 
“That issue was resolved earlier this year and we have been progressing with our rebuild plans ever since,” he said.  “Prior to that, of course, Tri Marine was working on the cold store project — completed in April this year — and the fresh and frozen fish facility expected to be completed early in 2014.
 
“Funding for the Samoa Tuna Processors (STP) project has and will continue to come from Tri Marine which includes bank financing. The total investment is substantial,” he said. “Bolton has made an investment that represents a minority interest in Tri Marine.”
 
He also said that Samoa Tuna Processors, like all Tri Marine related companies will be managed by Tri Marine through the local management selected to operate the facility.”
 
“The cannery project has been progressing for months and is expected to be completed by the end of 2014. The seawall project also started several months ago and is progressing well.”
 
The company has previously announced they are looking at hiring some 1,000 workers once the cannery plant is up and running.
 
Samoa Tuna Processor’s cannery will be the third and final phase of Tri Marine’s plans from the start to make American Samoa its hub in Pacific region. The company already has 11 fishing boats based in the territory and in April this year completed the construction of a huge cold-storage facility.



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