Billionaire investor ‘presses JBS and takeover target Huon’ over sustainability
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Billionaire investor ‘presses JBS and takeover target Huon over sustainability’

By Dean Best 12 Aug 2021 (Last Updated August 12th, 2021 13:11)

Andrew Forrest has built an 18% stake in Huon Aquaculture, the Australian seafood business meat giant JBS is looking to buy.

Billionaire investor ‘presses JBS and takeover target Huon over sustainability’

Australian investor Andrew Forrest has written to JBS and the meat giant’s local takeover target Huon Aquaculture to call for improved environmental and animal-welfare standards – and has upped his stake in the Tasmanian seafood company.

Tattarang Agrifood, Forrest’s investment vehicle, has built an 18.51% holding in Huon Aquaculture, moving to buy more shares in the business after JBS announced its bid to buy the company last week.

Huon Aquaculture’s directors, including the company’s founders and major shareholders, Frances and Peter Bender, support JBS’ offer and plan to vote their combined 53% stake in the business in favour of the transaction.

Next month, Huon Aquaculture’s investors will receive a report that will have judged whether the deal is in their best interests. They can then vote on the planned transaction in October.

In a statement last week, Mr Bender, also the company’s CEO, said the proposed sale of the business to JBS “represents an excellent outcome for our shareholders, partners and staff”.

JBS expects to finalise the deal in “late 2021”. The transaction, which would mark the entry of JBS, one of the world’s largest meat processors, into the seafood sector, remains “subject to conditions precedent as is customary, including, among other things, receipt of required court, regulatory and the approval of Huon shareholders”, the Brazilian company has said.

Speaking to The Australian Financial Review, Forrest said Tattarang had made its first investment in Huon Aquaculture in June, a move designed to help improve environmental standards at the company.

“When we invested in Huon it wasn’t to see if we could make a turn or a cheap investment, it was to see if we could turn salmon farming away from its current very poor reputation which in many cases is deserved and in some cases is not,” Forrest told the publication.

The investor wants JBS and Huon Aquaculture to commit to better standards in environmental and animal husbandry practices – including in the Brazil-based behemoth’s meat-processing operations.

The AFR said Forrest had declined to comment on whether he would use his vehicle to block the proposed deal if his demands were not met.

“We are a vitally interested investor,” he was quoted as saying. “But so is the rest of the country. The nation deserves to know what JBS animal husbandry practices are.”

Just Food has approached JBS for comment.