Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Oceana Group, which has limited opportunities to make a big acquisition in SA, will continue to trawl other markets as it looks to diversify its operations.

Imraan Soomra, the newly appointed CEO of Africa’s biggest fishing group, said on Tuesday Oceana, which owns Lucky Star canned pilchards, was looking at opportunities for further geographic and species diversification.

"There is a natural inclination to look offshore for possible deals. There are limited opportunities of scale locally that we could legitimately make a play for," he said.

Soomra said Oceana was specifically on the lookout for aquaculture operations, either in the form of a low entry point buy-in into a fledgling operation that could benefit from Oceana’s financial muscle or paying for a fully established aquaculture business. "We would like to have a meaningful aquaculture business within five years."

Smaller JSE-listed fishing competitors Sea Harvest and Premier Fishing, as well as AVI-controlled I&J, all have interests in aquaculture.

Soomra said Oceana would look at opportunities to snag an integrated global fishing business. But he conceded that finding a global fishing business that offered the same returns and margins as Oceana would be difficult. Soomra, formerly the FD of Oceana, was appointed CEO earlier in August following the departure of Francois Kuttel.

Kuttel now controls a US-based fishing firm that fishes exclusively for Oceana’s Daybrook fish meal and fish oil operations in the US.

Soomra said he had worked closely with Kuttel for the past five years and looked forward to building on the next step of the strategic plan.

"Strategically, it will be more of the same … although Francois and I might differ somewhat in our management styles."

In the past few years Oceana has looked to limit its reliance on quota-dependent SA operations. A step in this strategy was the acquisition of Louisiana-based Daybrook in 2015.