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Auckland, New Zealand, private equity firm Direct Capital has acquired a 45 percent stake in the New Zealand King Salmon Co. Ltd., the country's largest farmed-salmon company. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Owned by Malaysia's Tiong family, New Zealand King Salmon posts annual sales of more than $80 million, employs about 415 workers and produces more than 6,500 metric tons of chinook salmon a year. Founded in 1996, the Nelson-based company operates six salmon farms in the Marlborough Sounds, two hatcheries, four processing facilities and two sales and distribution offices. Its brands include Regal, Southern Ocean and Seasmoke.

New Zealand King Salmon plans to grow annual sales to more than $150 million in the next five years, reports The Press of New Zealand.

Paul Steere, CEO of New Zealand King Salmon, said that the addition of Direct Capital will allow his company to open more salmon farms and expand its processing capacity. "We look forward to the new era that these changes will bring," he said.

In February, the company opened a $4 million, 3-acre salmon farm, its fifth overall, at Clay Point in Tory Channel. About 10 percent of its annual salmon production is exported to the United States.

"We enjoy price premiums in the United States now and are seeing an increase in demand," Steere told SeaFood Business in a June interview. "Sustainable relationships are important to us, and we are working with a range of clients in the United States on long-term demand for value-added products that enhance the intrinsic benefits of the chinook species. We are very pleased with the support and high regard our product and service is receiving in the United States."

Ross George, one of three founding directors of Direct Capital in 1994, called the New Zealand King Salmon acquisition one of its "most important" in recent years.

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