Tasmania-based rural merchandise group Webster Ltd has acquired the 50% of Aquafarms Tasmania Ltd it did not already own in a deal that establishes Webster as one of Australia's foremost producers of Atlantic salmon.

Aquafarms, which was bought from Japan's Kokan Mining Co Ltd, is the holding company of leading salmon producer Aquatas Pty. The deal saw Kokan become a 7.5% shareholder in Webster, with the issuing of three million fully paid ordinary shares and three million converting preference shares (CPS).

Rob Woolley, MD of Webster, was optimistic about the acquisition of Aquafarms as part of a long-term growth strategy: "We're in the horticulture business, now we're in the aquaculture business. They have a lot of synergies. They are similar markets.

"We are now the number two force in the [salmon] market in our own right and are well positioned to take advantage of future industry rationalisation opportunities."

Those opportunities, explained Woolley, are within an industry that records annual sales of more than A$150m (US$77.56m) and employs around 570 full time people in Tasmania alone. With the deal, he added, "the profits stay here, the management's easy and I guess we're close to the action".