New Brunswick-based Cooke Aquaculture, which has salmon farming and processing operations in Maine, signed an agreement to acquire a leading salmon farming business in Scotland, the company announced Thursday. It is the first salmon venture in Europe for Cooke Aquaculture.
Under the agreement with Marine Harvest, Cooke Aquaculture will purchase Meridian Salmon Farms Limited, a fully owned subsidiary with assets in mainland Scotland and on the islands of Shetland and Orkney. Terms of the deal — expected to be closed in the second quarter — were not disclosed.
“This purchase gives us a unique platform for our European operations and is a good fit with our Spanish sea bass and sea bream farming company, Culmarex,” Glenn Cooke, the firm’s CEO, said in a news release issued by the company. “We will be able to leverage our global relationships with suppliers and build on Meridian’s excellent market reach into both the European and U.S. marketplace.”
The acquisition “creates value for our entire group and strengthens our European foothold,” Cooke added.
Cooke Aquaculture has been operating in Maine for a decade and has salmon farms, hatcheries and a processing plant that employ about 150 people. Salmon farms are located in Eastport, Machiasport and points south, including Black Island South near Bar Harbor. Hatcheries are at Gardner Lake in Washington County and in Bingham and Oquossoc. The company operates a processing plant in Machiasport, where a seasonal slowdown caused by the harsh winter has resulted in a temporary layoff.
The company’s employment in Maine is expected to increase in the spring when it stocks salmon farms in the Machiasport area, according to spokesman Chuck Brown.
Meridian had earnings of 44.3 million Canadian dollars on revenues of CA$151.3 million in 2013, according to Cooke. The company is “highly profitable,” he said, and earnings should increase significantly in the future, driven by higher prices for salmon that will be achieved when it is operated as an independent business.
Meridian produces a high proportion of superior quality and accredited salmon, including organic and Label Rouge, according to Cooke Aquaculture. It focuses on delivering fresh salmon products to European markets within a few hours of harvest. Meridian salmon farms have an annual capacity of 18,000 tons.
Cooke Aquaculture is a Canadian family-owned business headquartered in Black’s Harbor, New Brunswick, with salmon farming operations in Atlantic Canada and Maine. It also owns a salmon farming business in Chile and a sea bass and sea bream farming company in Spain.
The company’s marketing division, True North Salmon, sells a wide range of fresh farmed seafood products into U.S. and Canadian markets.
With the Meridian acquisition, Cooke Aquaculture will have annual sales of nearly $1 billion and employ 2,500, according to the company.
Its North American farms — in Maine, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland — produce 160 million pounds of salmon annually.
Kelly Cove Salmon, a subsidiary of Cooke Aquaculture, pleaded guilty in Canada in April 2013 to using illegal pesticides that killed hundreds of lobsters near Maine’s border and agreed to pay $500,000 in fines and penalties.