• Bloomberg


Mitsubishi Corp. proposed to buy Norwegian fishery Cermaq ASA for 8.88 billion kroner ($1.4 billion) to expand its foods business.

The offer is 14 percent more than Cermaq’s closing price Friday, the trading house said Monday. Cermaq’s headquarters will remain in Norway, it said.

Mitsubishi is following other Japanese traders by moving into the food industry as a slowdown in the pace of Chinese demand for coal and iron ore prompts a shift in focus.

In June, it inked a deal that will almost double its Australian grain handling volumes after buying a controlling stake in Olam International Ltd.’s unit in the world’s fourth-largest wheat exporting nation.

The Norwegian government, Cermaq’s biggest shareholder, said it is prepared to sell its shares to Mitsubishi, although it could switch to another buyer if presented with a more attractive offer. The Trade, Industry and Fisheries Ministry owns 59.17 percent of Cermaq, the statement said.

Mitsubishi’s offer for Cermaq is about 18 percent higher than the average price over the past three months, said Bent Rolland, an analyst at Fondsfinans ASA, which was an adviser in the deal. “The offer is fair,” he said Monday.

A majority of Cermaq’s shareholders last year rejected a final bid from Marine Harvest ASA to buy Cermaq, including its fish-feed unit Ewos, for 107 kroner a share. The company instead sold Ewos to Bain Capital LLC and Altor Equity Partners and paid its owners an extraordinary dividend of 51 kroner.

Should the proposal of 96 kroner a share announced Monday go through, Cermaq’s shareholders will have earned almost 40 percent more, including dividends, than if they took Marine Harvest’s offer.

Mitsubishi said in August profit fell 17 percent in the last quarter as sales of oil, gas and coal delivered ¥43.4 billion in net income, down from ¥64.4 billion a year earlier. Smaller rival Marubeni Corp., the biggest seller of soybeans to China, posted record profit in the quarter ended in June, while Itochu Corp., which paid $1.3 billion last year for Dole Foods Co.’s canned fruits and Asian grocery business, saw net income jump 13 percent.

While presenting its mid-term business plan in May last year, Mitsubishi said it’s seeking to double the size of its profit from operations outside metals and energy to ¥360 billion a year ($3.3 billion) by about 2020.

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