Cermaq Falls as Government May Scupper Takeover: Oslo Mover

May 15 (Bloomberg) -- Cermaq ASA, a Norwegian fish-food maker, fell the most in almost 10 months after the government, its largest shareholder, signaled it won’t support a takeover bid from Marine Harvest ASA.

Shares in the Oslo-based company fell as much as 4.6 percent, the most since July 20, and were down 1.9 percent at 102.5 krone as of 3:39 p.m. in the Norwegian capital. A close at that price will be the lowest since Marine Harvest ASA offered 105 krone a share on April 30. More than 280,000 shares had traded, about 115 percent of the three-month daily average.

The government, which holds 43.5 percent, yesterday announced it would support Cermaq’s proposed acquisition of Copeinca ASA. Marine Harvest on April 30 offered 104 kroner a share for Cermaq, excluding a 1 krone dividend. The offer, which is conditional on Cermaq not going through with a proposed 3.49 billion kroner takeover of Copeinca, is “inadequate” and undervalues the company, Cermaq has said.

The acquisition of Copeinca is “the right way to go,” Industry Minister Trond Giske said in an interview today in Harstad, in northern Norway. “It creates a stronger company, and we think there’s great value in this transaction.”

Marine Harvest also today announced it would waive a condition for the government to sell its stake and said it would seek approval of only 33 percent. If the Copeinca takeover is approved at a Cermaq general assembly on May 21, Marine Harvest said it would then sell any shares it has acquired.

“Marine Harvest hasn’t raised the bid yet and it’s starting to get late now,” Geir Kristiansen, an analyst at Sparebank 1 Markets AS, said by phone. “So the market doesn’t really believe they will raise the bid and then this bid will fall, at least for now.”

Giske said that since Cermaq is a commercial investment the government would consider a higher bid, should one be made.

“It’s the value creation in the company and the long-term results that will determine our strategy,” he said. “We consider all options for Cermaq in a responsible way. But as you know, the Norwegian government isn’t short of cash and we’re not in a hurry. We think there’s a strong long-term value in Cermaq.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Alastair Reed in Oslo at areed12@bloomberg.net; Stephen Treloar in Oslo at streloar1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Christian Wienberg at cwienberg@bloomberg.net