Nordlaks invests in Atlantic Sapphire ASA

The listed fish farming company Atlantic Sapphire is in the process of developing phase two at its land-based facility in Florida. Nordlaks will participate in this, and has committed to subscribe for shares in the company through an ongoing share issue.

Atlantic Sapphire has developed and built a land-based facility in Miami from 2017 until today. About $ 350 million has been invested in the facility to date. Phase one is in operation and phase two is under development. Completed, the aim is for an annual production of 25,000 tonnes of salmon after phase two, which will continue until the first half of 2024. In the long term, the company has ambitions to produce 220,000 tonnes of gutted salmon by 2031. The company currently has approx. 180 employees and will mainly supply the American market with salmon.

– We have been following Atlantic Sapphire since the start. In our assessment, they are one of the players that has come the furthest in land-based farming. They also have a good location at their facility in Miami, with good logistics to cover the American continent. Not least, they have access to a good water source and available area to increase production further. We believe the company has good conditions for success with its development plans, says CEO of Nordlaks Eirik Welde.

Nordlaks currently has fish farms in 12 municipalities in Nordland and Troms, all of which are sea-based. Land-based farming is, until now, something the company has not invested in.

– Nordlaks is located in the world’s best area for farming. At the same time, we see that the framework conditions for further development of the privately owned aquaculture companies in Norway in particular make it more interesting than ever to assess investment opportunities outside our own business and abroad. However, this will not take our focus away from the job of building a solid and competitive Nordlaks based on where we are and what we know best, Welde points out.

Johan Andreassen, CEO and founder of Atlantic Sapphire says the following about the investment:

– Nordlaks is one of the most well-run fish farmers globally and we see it as a vote of confidence that they are now investing in Atlantic Sapphire. We are impressed by Nordlaks’ operational history and look forward to having Nordlaks as a significant shareholder in the company.

The chairman of the board of Nordlaks, Kjell Bjordal, confirms that the investment across the Atlantic is related to the wealth tax that is now being introduced on licenses owned by private fish farmers.

– For over 30 years, Nordlaks has done what we have believed is in the country’s interest, through local Norwegian ownership created jobs and value creation primarily in northern Norway. Nordlaks is today the country’s largest privately owned aquaculture company with almost 700 employees. We are now experiencing that the framework conditions for Norwegian aquaculture in general and for Norwegian-owned aquaculture companies outside the stock exchange in particular, are becoming more and more uncertain. We no longer see any connection between the political ambitions of the industry and the way the industry is managed. We are therefore in doubt as to whether it is wise to continue to have all eggs in the same basket, even though we would very much like to continue building Northern Norway, says Bjordal.

– The Norwegian Parliament of 1906 has received much praise for adopting the “panic laws” that prevented Norwegian hydropower from falling into foreign hands. 40% of Norway’s most important export industry based on renewable resources is already owned from abroad. We note with astonishment that the Parliament is now adopting a special tax for Norwegian-owned aquaculture companies that further favors foreign ownership in the coast’s most important industry. While Norwegian-owned companies get a tax increase which means that the companies must be tapped for billions every year, foreign ones escape completely. In addition, the wealth tax is based on the highest bidder for licenses so that foreign companies can decide how much their Norwegian-owned competitors will be drained of resources each year. It is difficult to envisage a more precise tool for transferring locally owned aquaculture companies to foreign hands, says the chairman of the board of Nordlaks.

– We are happy to pay tax on equal terms, it is part of our social mission. Nor are we moving to the neighboring municipality of Bø or abroad. But we see that it can quickly become more interesting to compete on equal terms outside than with a handicap at home. Therefore, we are taking a limited position in Atlantic Sapphire where we are investing part of the money we had set aside for the autumn auction to buy a growth permit in Norway. We are used to innovation risk and that a few steps forward are quickly replaced by a step back or two when trying to create something new. Atlantic Sapphire is many years ahead of its competitors and we consider that few have as good opportunities to succeed, concludes Bjordal.