American Seafoods pauses sale process as it waits for “a more favorable macroeconomic environment”

The American Seafoods booth at Seafood Expo Global
The American Seafoods booth at Seafood Expo Global | Photo courtesy of American Seafoods
4 Min

Seattle, Washington, U.S.A.-based pollock- and hake-fishing firm American Seafoods Group has paused its sale process.

In May 2023, Bregal Partners announced it would commence a sale process of its majority holding in the company.

But, in a 3 July announcement, American Seafoods CEO Einar Gustafsson said that process has been paused “so we can continue to focus on our business and customers.”

“Our business remains strong, and we look forward to revisiting these discussions when the macroeconomic environment improves and when our valuation is consistent with the strength of our company,” Gustafsson said. “With strong growth prospects ahead, American Seafoods is excited to remove this overhang and refocus ourselves on our day-to-day operations. Our company is poised to capitalize on the global seafood industry’s growing demand for high-quality products, and now, we can get back to fully concentrating on running the greatest fishing company in the world.”

Bregal Partners, a New York City-based private equity fund, previously said it would seek to wrap up its Bregal Partners I portfolio, which includes American Seafoods, West Coast Salmon – a land-based salmon farm under development in the U.S. state of Nevada – and the now-defunct New Bedford, Massachusetts, U.S.A.-based groundfish-fishing firm Blue Harvest Fisheries. With American Seafoods’ decision to pause its sales process, the company will remain in the portfolio, according to the company. Bregal Partners previously sought to sell its stake in American Seafoods in 2019 but was also unsuccessful in that instance.

In May 2023, Bregal Investments Co-Founder Scott Perekslis left the firm to make a bid to purchase its seafood holdings, but a sale has not come to fruition.

Gustafsson told SeafoodSource in April 2023 the company had “a very strong balance sheet,” having paid down much of its debt.

I can't get into specifics, but we are clearly well-positioned to both continue to invest in our business, whether it's in the acquisitions – M&A-wise – new-builds, or existing vessels. I think the company has never been as strong as it is now, in its history, from a balance sheet point of view. We can hold inventory, we’re well within all covenants, and we’ve got excess headroom on lines,” he said. “The biggest challenge is I can’t mess it up. [Previous CEO] Mikel [Durham] did a phenomenal job of driving discipline, and that paid off in a number of ways. We need to treat this asset with respect and make sure that we invest wisely.

American Seafoods fishes and produces a range of fillet, surimi, roe, and block product offerings made from Alaska pollock, Pacific hake, Pacific cod, and yellowfin sole, sold globally. Gustafsson said the pollock market had been weak and that “big swings in the marketplace [were] not a good thing” for the industry.

In February 2024, the company removed a major impediment to a sale when it finalized a settlement with the U.S. government to resolve alleged Jones Act violations stemming from the use of a dead-end railway in Canada known as the Bayside Program.

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