A small fish swallowed a bigger fish when the U.K.'s Benchmark Holdings bought Belgium's Inve Aquaculture from Coöperatieve Rabobank and Royal Bank of Scotland in December for about £227 million ($321.8 million).
Before making its move, the Sheffield, England-based buyer spent four years studying Inve, during which time Benchmark went public with a listing on London's small-cap exchange, added salmon breeding and genetics through acquisitions in Norway and Iceland, and tilapia genetics and breeding through another Norwegian purchase. It watched as Inve's creditors took full control in a 2012 debt-for-equity swap and reshaped the entity into a business with 20% of the world market for shrimp and fish hatcheries and nurseries. Benchmark approached Inve long before an auction was ever in the cards.
"It was a complicated deal, but sometimes the way you structure a transaction can improve the outcome for both parties," said Benchmark CEO and co-founder Malcolm Pye. "To do that, you have to really get inside the business you're seeking to acquire. This was a long piece of work for us and we were really excited to get over the finish line."
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