From Undercurrent News, Feb. 5, 2020    

Japan’s Maruha Nichiro has tasked a specialist in seafood mergers and acquisitions to sell Peter Pan Seafoods, an Alaska processor of wild salmon, cod and pollock.

Tokyo-based Maruha Nichiro, the largest seafood company in the world in revenue, has engaged Antarctica Advisers, one of the most prolific seafood M&A advisory firms, to run the sale process for Peter Pan, sources told Undercurrent News.

Peter Pan and Maruha Nichiro did not respond to requests for comment from Undercurrent.

Executives with Antarctica, which just advised Bristol Bay Native Corporation on its acquisition of Pacific cod longline firms Clipper Seafoods and Blue North, as well as the sale of trout farmer Clear Springs Foods on its sale to smaller rival Riverence, declined to comment.

The Maruha Nichiro plan to sell Peter Pan comes after a tough year for the Alaskan salmon sector.

Fishermen-owned Silver Bay Seafoods has emerged as a powerful new player has put all the incumbent operators, including Peter Pan, Trident Seafoods, Ocean Beauty Seafoods, Cooke-owned Icicle Seafoods and North Pacific Seafoods, under pressure, sources said. Silver Bay has created much more competition for fish, sources said.

Other consolidation is needed, sources said. Last year, Undercurrent reported Cooke was in talks to acquire Ocean Beauty, but a deal is yet to materialize.

Maruha Nichiro’s latest financial results, for the third quarter of the $8 billion-annual-sales group, state the company has had issues with Peter Pan, without naming the company.

Both net sales and operating income of its North American unit decreased due, in part, to “difficulty in procuring Alaskan salmon”, the company said.

Sale for the North American unit for the first three quarters of the year, to Dec. 31, 2019, were down 5.7% year-on-year to JPY 44.2bn, with the unit posting a loss of JPY 600 million ($5.47m) for the period, compared to a profit of JPY 2.5bn in the same period of 2018.

In addition to Peter Pan, Maruha Nichiro’s North American unit also includes Alaskan pollock and crab processors Westward Seafoods and Alyeska Seafoods, as well as Premier Pacific Seafoods, the sales arm for two pollock mothership vessels. The Japanese firm also owns Trans-Ocean Products, a surimi seafood producer and seller.

Four plants up for grabs

Undercurrent was unable to obtain the prospectus circulating on Peter Pan in the industry, but the company’s website has a lot of detail on its operations.

Peter Pan has four plants in Alaska, in King Cove, Port Moller, which was rebuilt after a fire in 2017, Valdez and Dillingham.

The King Cove plant — located some 600 air miles southwest of Anchorage — is the company’s largest and is processing king crab, bairdi and opilio tanner crab, pollock, cod, salmon, halibut and black cod harvested in both the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska, throughout the year.

King Cove has the largest salmon canning capacity of any plant in Alaska, according to the company’s website. Although salmon still remains a big part of the operations, Peter Pan has expanded its whitefish offerings in recent years.

The plant produces several different product forms including pollock fillet blocks, “shatterpack” fillets, mince and surimi. Cod shatterpack fillets and salt cod “are mainstays”, according to the website. At peak seasons, both winter and summer, nearly 500 employees work in the operation.

Peter Pan’s Port Moller factory, some 550 air miles southwest of Anchorage on the north side of the Alaska Peninsula, is focused on salmon processing and freezing. The plant, which was re-built and re-opened in 2019 after the fire the previous year, primarily processes sockeye salmon, but also produces small amounts of king, coho, and chum salmon. The plant can process about 250,000 pounds of salmon per day in frozen headed and gutted, fillets, “teien” (salted fillets) and “sujiko” (salted salmon eggs).

The plant can have 140 people at peak production times and is self-sufficient, due to its remote location. The company is buying from a fleet of 105 drift gill netters and 30 set netters, both resident and non-resident fishermen, according to its website.

“The North Peninsula area is somewhat unique in that the sockeye salmon runs are spread out over the summer from early June through mid-September. This long season and the moderate rate of the harvest over its length provide us the opportunity to concentrate on producing very high-quality salmon products,” the company said, of the plant.

Peter Pan’s Valdez factory is located in the heart of Prince William Sound, the home of the Copper River salmon.

The plant is the only fresh/frozen/cannery operation in Valdez, where a crew of 350 processes all varieties of wild salmon, as well as halibut and black cod. Valdez is a five-hour drive from Anchorage and it can also be reached by airplane and ferry.

Peter Pan’s Dillingham operation, located on the shores of the Nushagak River in Bristol Bay, is the company’s oldest plant. According to the company’s website, it “lays claim” to being the oldest continually operated cannery in Alaska.

As well as canned salmon, the plant is doing fresh and frozen products, in the frenetic Bristol Bay salmon season. The season starts in early June, then peaks around July 4 and is usually over by the first week of August.

Due to the tremendous volume of product that is normally available during the peak season”, Peter Pan utilizes its large and mobile tender fleet of 30 plus vessels to ship the Bristol Bay product to its other processing facilities, the company said.

The Dillingham plant employs approximately 320 and “also has one of the largest affiliated fishing fleets in Bristol Bay with over 180 fishing drift fishing boats and 110 set net operations”.

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