Culver City seafood supplier Rubicon Resources, a venture of Thai seafood packing and distribution companies AMS and PTN Group, will be acquired by High Liner Foods Inc., a publicly traded Canadian company, in a cash-and-stock deal valued at $107 million.
Founded in 1999, Rubicon reported 2016 sales of $234 million. The company supplies shrimp and fish, primarily from Southeast Asia, to retailers including Kroger, Wal-Mart, and Sam’s Club as well as to restaurants and food service companies.
“We’ve been successful over the years by consolidating the supply chain for the aquaculture business,” said Brian Wynn, 49, Rubicon’s chief executive.
That consolidation involved eliminating several layers of brokers and traders, Wynn said.
As a result, the company expanded its footprint in Thailand, where it employs 20,000 people in 13 factories, he said. Partnering up with local shrimp farmers led to a direct source for the company’s distribution channels.
Rubicon will retain its Culver City facility and 40 employees.
“We will operate as an independent, wholly owned subsidiary of High Liner Foods,” Wynn said.
The acquisition, 70 percent of which was to be in cash and the balance in shares of High Liner, includes a three-year employment contract for Wynn to continue as Rubicon’s chief executive and a five-year agreement with Rubicon’s supply partners based on mutually acceptable terms.
RBC Capital Markets acted as financial adviser to High Liner while Santa Monica’s American Discovery Capital served in that role for Rubicon. The deal is expected to close this quarter.
The acquisition could be timely. A report released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in October said that Americans increased their seafood consumption to 15.5 pounds of fish and shellfish per person in 2015, up 1 pound from 2014, a jump not seen in 20 years.
High Liner, which is traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange and has a market cap of about $400 million, said the acquisition of Rubicon will further strengthen its presence in the U.S. market.
“Rubicon is an ideal acquisition for High Liner that will provide sales and earnings growth, and expedite diversification of our product portfolio to aquaculture species, like shrimp, that are experiencing stronger growth rates in North America,” Keith Decker, High Liner’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Rubicon has faced recent scrutiny after being named in a lawsuit filed in California federal court last year by seven Cambodian workers working in Thailand who allege human trafficking charges and slavery-like working conditions. Another U.S. seafood company and two Thai companies also were named in the suit.
The defendants filed a motion in August to dismiss the claims, but a judge ruled in November that the case would go to trial.
Wynn said his company engages in best labor practices and treats its workers fairly.
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