Forrest won't match JBS bid for Huon, but still wants sale blocked

Twiggy says JBS-Huon deal too costly because salmon pens must move

Agribusiness
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Andrew `Twiggy' Forrest says the $540m JBS bid for Huon Aquaculture is too expensive if company has to relocate its controversial salmon pens.

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Andrew Forrest says he won't bid as much as global meat giant JBS for Huon Aquaculture because he has serious environmental concerns about Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour salmon farming pens, and they should be moved.

The mining and agribusiness billionaire's investment company Tattarang deliberately declined to match JBS' $3.85 takeover bid for Huon because it intended the company spend up big relocating its contentious salmon farms into deeper sea water off the Tasmanian coast.

He also wanted to see the Australian salmon industry follow the lead of some major northern hemisphere producers and start operating fish farms on land.

He has also reiterated his calls for the federal government's Foreign Investment Review Board to stop the $540 million JBS takeover, arguing its track record on environmental and animal welfare issues and convictions for bribery and price fixing are good enough reason for pre-agreed FIRB approvals to be halted.

"Tattarang has factored into its offer price several key environmental improvements that it strongly believes are absolutely necessary for sustainable and responsible salmon production," Dr Forrest said.

"The first of these is an end to salmon farming in Tasmania's Macquarie Harbour ... where they are environmentally destructive, and have deeply upset to the local community.

"Our offer was predicated on fixing the environment, focusing on production in deep water high current environments, or on land," he said.

Huon has, however, noted how land-based salmon farming is not happening in commercial volumes anywhere overseas, even though Norway has taken tentative steps to diversify its production base.

Norway, the world's largest salmon producer, is now producing about one per cent of its total salmon harvest from land-based farms.

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Early this week Huon confirmed Tattarang had made a non-binding indicative offer for its aquaculture operation, which includes three farming sites and a processing facility in north western Tasmania, but the JBS Group price was materially higher.

Andrew Forrest

Andrew Forrest

Dr Forrest said Tattarang, which now owns an 18.5pc stake, had bought its shares in a bid to continue to pressure any future Huon management to move the Macquarie Harbour pens.

He noted the huge harbour had been a controversial production site where big numbers of fish have died from overstocking.

He did not think his calls for better animal welfare were simply "noise", as described by Huon chairman Neil Kearney.

Dr Forrest claimed JBS Group's "appalling track record on the treatment of animals" overseas was well and truly on the public record and he would continue the battle, and challenge JBS Group to adopt the same environmental strategy as his own business, which owns in Western Australia's Harvey Beef and Leeuwin Coast aquaculture businesses.

"My message for Huon and JBS Group has not changed," he said

"`No pain, no fear' is not noise - it is animal rights."

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The story Forrest won't match JBS bid for Huon, but still wants sale blocked first appeared on Farm Online.

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