Finding opportunities in a fragmented salmon market

Italian PE fund Arcadia aims to double the revenues of salmon smoker Starlaks over the next five years.

CEO of Milan-based Arcadi Simone Arnaboldi explained that the private equity fund completes transactions in what it calls the low-mid market segment.

“Typically with revenues between EUR 10 million and EUR 50 million. We are attracted by businesses in many sectors, so we are a so-called generalist investor,” he said.

Starlaks Italia
This year, Arnaboldi’s firm acquired 100 per-cent of the salmon smoker Starlaks Italia. He hopes to double its revenues of the Novara, (northwest Italy) facility to EUR 30 million over the next five years.

In terms of consumption of smoked salmon or salmon in general, Italy is rapidly increasing per capita, and like Spain, its consumers are paying attention to healthy food. But also one of the attractions of the investment for Arnaboldi is that the Italian salmon market is fragmented.

“Whether the entrepreneurs are willing to dispose of the business for many reasons – mainly due to succession problems. In other cases even if we take a majority stake, but we remain, we ask the entrepreneur to remain and we support his willingness to see an acceleration of the growth of the business,” he said.

“In many cases, we are dealing with an entrepreneur who has the aspiration to substantially grow the business but needs a financial partner in order to that,” said Arnaboldi.

Family businesses
In most cases, Arcadi deals with typically family businesses, which are then helped to transform into more professionally managed businesses.

“We work on the introduction of new management, control systems, and procedures. We try to focus the company on a clear strategy in order to define the ways for the growth of the future,” he said.

100 per-cent of the company was acquired from Starlaks’ founders Andrea Balbo, Alex Brustia and Gaudenzio Brustia who left the business with room for growth.

10 years ago, the entrepreneurs, who were fish traders, set up the company with little experience of processing. The facility, which produces high-end fish, generated more than EUR 16 million at the closing date of the last financial year before the acquisition.

“The business was able to rapidly grow as they were very careful to provide a product of superior quality and they also decided to focus on big retailers as the channel for the sales of the company. And they were able to establish very strong commercial relationships with the most important retailers in Italy. And they provide them with about 50 per-cent of the revenues of the own brand of Starlaks, and the other half they produced the brand label of the retailer,” said Arnaboldi.

“We saw an opportunity which arose. The market is made of local producers and importers and the big retailers are more and more attracted by local producers. They want to have the supplier close to them and so there is a trend where the consumption is moving from importers to the local producers. And this is one of the key attractions we saw in the deal,” he said.


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