December 18, 2013


European Commission approves Bolton's acquisition of Tri Marine




Giving a green light for a deal that unites two companies with combined turnover of over US$2 billion, the European commission (EC) has approved the acquisition of a portion of Tri Marine International by Bolton Group.


Bolton, which is registered in the Netherlands but operates from a base in Milan, Italy and owns the Rio Mare and Saupiquet canned seafood brands in Italy and France, respectively, announced it was acquiring an "important minority interest" in Tri Marine on October 8.


The EC said the move from Bolton "to acquire joint control of two companies and integrate them with fish trader Tri Marine" has been approved on December 10. The deal is being closely watched by tuna sector sources.


Sources felt that the deal is a play based on the need for capital to finance planned expansions, such as Tri Marine's planned plant in American Samoa.


Bolton has also has much expertise in branded tuna sales and Tri Marine has also recently launched the brand Ocean Naturals in the US.


"The new partners may believe this will give them the financial strength to enter the US market, as Tri Marine recently launched a retail brand into Walmart," a tuna sector source said, with reference to Ocean Naturals.


That, however, "will be a very expensive proposition, given the existence of mature and well established brands in the US", he said, referring to the already highly competitive landscape with the Bumble Bee, Starkist and Chicken of the Sea brands.


Renato Curto, chairman of Tri Marine, said: "We have been working like family with Bolton Group for a long time."


Tri Marine is currently starting work on it by self-financing, and some of the subsidies it had hoped for from either the US government are either no longer available, less than expected, or delayed, he said.


Bolton is the owner of the Saupiquet, Rio Mare and Palmera tuna brands in France and Italy. It also owns a stake of just below 40% in Calvo Group, which it bought for US$132 million in April 2012. Bolton is thought to have revenue of around €600 million (US$826.5 million).


Tri Marine is one of the so-called "big three" tuna traders, along with Taiwanese group F.C.F. Fishery and Itochu, the Japanese trading conglomerate. The company has expanded from trading to being active in fishing and processing, as well as financing other companies' operations. It provides tuna to major brands, including Chicken of the Sea, Princes and Starkist.


Both companies are founding members of the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation.