Benchmark expands into fish feeds through acquisition

Benchmark Holdings, the UK group that includes FAI Farms and 5M Publishing, has acquired a Dutch aquaculture feed business in what it terms a "transformational transaction making the company a global leader in aquaculture technology".

The AIM-listed business has agreed to buy INVE Aquaculture Holding (INVE) for $342 million (£227m), with $300m payable in cash and $42m in consideration shares. At the same time, Benchmark is placing 216 million new shares to raise £185.7m.

Benchmark says INVE’s leadership in the speciality aquaculture nutrition market will complement its existing strength in fish genetics and health built up over the past couple of years.  INVE management will join the enlarged group, which will have a presence in over 70 country markets across six continents, and benefit from INVE’s portfolio of 40 products in development with little duplication with Benchmark’s R&D pipeline.

 INVE made an EBITDA of $25.4m on revenues of $89m in the year ended December 31st 2014, while Benchmark Holdings posted a pre-tax loss of £1.4m on sales of £35.4m in its latest full years trading ended September 30 2014. Benchmark expects the acquisition to be immediately earnings enhancing in the first full financial year post-completion.

“The acquisition of INVE makes Benchmark a global leader in the aquaculture technology market overnight,” says chief executive Malcolm Pye. “Aquaculture is not only a multi-billion dollar sector but one of the fastest growing in the food industry. Importantly we believe the teams at Benchmark and INVE share a common ethos and culture. Both companies have a history of working collaboratively with partners to develop technologies and both have a drive to address one of the most pressing issues of our time in developing a healthy, sustainable food chain.

“Since listing, Benchmark has a proven track record of successfully integrating acquisitions – as with SalmoBreed and StofnFiskur last year – and this deal underpins our future growth ambitions. The potential opportunities and synergies presented by INVE offer a step-up both in terms of the technology applied in our products, and the marketing and distribution network already present in some of the fastest growing markets in the world.”

• The deal follows the recent appointment of Robin Wardle as strategic development manager for the aquaculture arm. He joins Benchmark from Merck Animal Health where he was global strategic marketing director for aquaculture.

Mr Wardle has 30 years’ experience in the sector, the majority of which was spent developing some of the major health programmes now used routinely to prevent and control disease in farmed fish. These include the introduction of the first vaccines in Europe, the first oral vaccines, the first integrated health solutions to use prime and booster vaccination technologies and specific technical service programs to prevent disease in fish.