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Sanford Acquire Mussel Farm in Marlborough Sounds

NEW ZEALAND - Sanford Ltd., the biggest fishing company on the NZX, agreed to acquire mussel farms from Sealord Group for NZ$23.4 million, adding to its capacity to produce the shellfish in the Marlborough Sounds.

The purchase is for about 240 hectares of water space and equipment for growing mussels and spat, as well as any crop available for harvest starting July 2010, Sanford said in a statement. The sale doesn’t include any crop ready for harvest in the next 12 months, which Sanford expects to purchase anyway. The transaction is expected to be settled within 10 days.

“This will give us access to increased growing space for greenshell mussels, of approximately 5,000 tonnes per annum, and will allow the continued expansion of our already extensive aquaculture interests in the Marlborough Sounds, Stewart Island, Coromandel and Northland,” the company said in its statement.

Sanford already has a close working relationship with Sealord, the company owned by Maori interests and Japanese fishing group Nippon Suisan Kaisha, or Nissui. They jointly developed a toll mussel processing company in Tauranga, which is being upgraded to include automated lines, and have cooperative catching arrangements for orange roughy and dory on the Chatham Rise.

Shares of Sanford last traded unchanged at NZ$5.20 and have weakened about 3 per cent this year. Much of its harvest is exported so it tends to suffer when the kiwi dollar is stronger. The currency was recently at 65.34 U.S. cents, having climbed from below 50 cents in early March.

Sanford said combined with the use of its automated mussel opening machine in Havelock, currently running on two shifts, the purchase of additional farms will allow the company to almost double the current throughput within three years.

Sealord said the sale frees up capital for investment in other areas and that it will concentrate on developing its extensive mussel farm holdings in Tasman Bay and in the Coromandel.

the Fish Site Editor

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