NTS is the chip that could enable SalMar to challenge Mowi as a market leader

Aslak Berge
Aiming at half a million tonnes of salmon.

It is not often that a large aquaculture company gets the opportunity: To be invited by half of the shareholders in a large competing company to submit a bid for the shares. But that is exactly what Gustav Witzøe and SalMar have received this winter.

When NTS merged with fish farming neighbor SalmoNor last spring, SalMar was not given the opportunity to come to the table and negotiate.

This has changed after months of friction and an ever-increasing level of conflict between the leading shareholders and board members of NTS, which culminated in a group of shareholders inviting other players to bid for the company.

Comment: Aslak Berge

Mowi was first out, with a bid of 110 kroner on 24 January. On Monday 14 February, SalMar responded, which was not entirely unexpected.

Gustav Witzøe and SalMar were in fact very eager to bid on NTS-dominated NRS in the late summer of last year. SalMar also had the highest bid, at NOK 270 per NRS share, when the takeover battle dramatically ended with NTS pulling the longest straw and securing the majority of shares in NRS.

This time, Witzøe obviously does not intend to let the chance go. For now, he has acquired a unique opportunity to secure a production capacity of 124,000 tonnes, in Central Norway, Northern Norway and Iceland – all regions where SalMar is already present and can reap operational synergies. The latter is important, because then it means that the seed company can more easily calculate a high takeover bid.

Kjell Inge Røkke and Gustav Witzøe. Photo: Aslak Berge

If SalMar actually wins the bidding war, and secures the farming activities of NTS, NRS and Arctic Fish, it will significantly increase SalMar’s production volume. The company already guides 175,000 tonnes in Norway, 46,000 tonnes in Scotland and 16,000 tonnes in Iceland. In addition, there is the offshore investment SalMar Aker Ocean, where Witzøe and partner Kjell Inge Røkke aim for 150,000 tonnes by 2030.

Nearly half a million tonnes
If all this is summed up, SalMar will eventually be able to become equal to the current market leader Mowi, which harvested 466,000 tonnes of salmon in 2021. As of today, Mowi does not have the same opportunities for growth as SalMar.

Even though Mowi withdrew its bid of NOK 110 per NTS share only 28 minutes after SalMar’s bid became known, and that the Rørvik families support SalMar’s bid, it is not a given that the acquisition battle is a done deal. Mowi’s corporate management has still not responded to repeated inquiries about whether they have now folded – or will launch a new and improved bid.

And Mowi, or another stakeholder, also has the opportunity to take on the role of white knight and – by buying shares and in alliance with major shareholder Helge Gåsø (37 per cent) – block SalMar from reaching the magic 50 per cent of the shares in NTS.

The fight is not over.

Helge Gåsø and Frøya’s mayor Kristin Furunes Strømskag. (Photo: Yoof Photography Krzysztof Zboralski)

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