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Norway Says Cermaq Stake Lets Ministry Control Sales Process

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July 2 (Bloomberg) -- Norway’s government increased its stake in Cermaq ASA, the largest maker of fish feed, to give it control over the sale of the company’s Ewos unit, Trade and Industry Ministry Trond Giske said.

Norway, which last week increased its stake in the company to 59.2 percent from 43.5 percent, doesn’t expect to maintain such a large position in Cermaq, the minister said in an interview in Oslo today. “This is just a position that we want to hold to control the process.”

Norway bought shares in Cermaq on June 24 and 25 after earlier that month rejecting an offer from Marine Harvest ASA, the world’s largest salmon producer, as too low. The government, which holds strategic stakes in companies including Statoil ASA and Norsk Hydro ASA, has maintained its investment in Cermaq is financial and that it’s open to an “industrially sound solution” for the company.

Giske didn’t say if the government will accept an offer from Bain Capital LLC and Altor Equity Partners for Ewos, which values the unit at 6.2 billion-kroner ($1 billion). Cermaq will hold an extraordinary meeting on July 11 to decide on the deal, which needs the backing of 50 percent of shareholders.

“When the process with Cermaq is complete, then we will either be totally out of the company” or perhaps hold a “smaller strategic position,” Giske said today, without giving further detail.

Morpol Integration

Cermaq’s fish feed operations contributed operating revenue of 10.3 billion kroner last year, compared with sales of 3.3 billion kroner for its fish farming operations, according to its annual report. Ewos is the biggest salmon feed supplier by volume, while its farming operation, which includes units in Chile, Canada and Norway, is the third-largest salmon producer.

Cermaq closed 0.5 percent higher at 108 kroner in Oslo, extending its gain during the last 12 months to 35 percent and giving the company a market value of 10 billion kroner.

Marine Harvest, controlled by billionaire John Fredriksen, has now sold all its shares in Cermaq and will focus on developing its greenfield feed capacity in Norway, expanding its farming operations at home and in Chile, and integrating smoked salmon producer Morpol ASA into its business, it said on June 26.

To contact the reporter on this story: Saleha Mohsin in Oslo on at smohsin2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jonas Bergman at jbergman@bloomberg.net

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