Big American PE firm purchases Aker BioMarine’s feed ingredients arm

Aker BioMarine's Qrill product is a high-selling omega-3 supplement
Aker BioMarine's Qrill product is a high-selling omega-3 supplement | Photo courtesy of Aker BioMarine
6 Min

Aker BioMarine has sold its feed ingredients subsidiary to U.S. private equity firm American Industrial Partners (AIP) and Aker Capital.

The acquisition agreement for the Oslo, Norway-based biotech and krill-harvesting company’s feed ingredients unit is based on an enterprise valuation of USD 590 million (EUR 545 million). The acquiring party will be a newly established company – owned 60 percent by AIP and 40 percent by Aker Capital – Aker BioMarine confirmed in a 3 July filing with the Euronext Oslo Stock Exchange.

Aker BioMarine Feed Ingredients is the world’s largest krill harvester and producer of krill meal – a premium marine ingredient used in aquaculture feed, pet food, and for extraction of krill oil for human consumption. Feed Ingredients owns and operates three specialized harvesting vessels and a support vessel fishing for krill in Antarctic waters, as well as shoreside operations in Montevideo, Uruguay.

"We are eager to join forces with AIP, leveraging their maritime expertise and growing aquaculture presence to accelerate our growth trajectory. This partnership positions us to more rapidly advance the aquaculture, animal health and sustainability benefits of krill globally," Aker Feed Ingredients CEO Webjørn Barstad said in a press release.

The move follows Aker BioMarine’s announcement of a strategic review of its ownership of its Feed Ingredients arm on 14 February 2024 “based on external interest” in the business. In the 3 July announcement, Aker BioMarine CEO Matts Johansen said the transaction “will create significant shareholder value and is an important step in crystallizing value and enables a focused Aker BioMarine within the human health and nutrition

"We are pleased to announce the sale of our ownership position in the feed ingredients business,” Johansen said. “This transaction is the result of a process that attracted interest from a wide range of reputable parties and not only demonstrates the value of Feed Ingredients but also underscores the value potential of Aker BioMarine as a whole. “

Johansen said the transaction will create significant shareholder value, and enable it to focus on its human health and nutrition business.

“We will continue to explore how we can drive shareholder value by enabling potential partnerships and transactions for each of the remaining business units,” he said.

Aker’s feed ingredients unit recorded an adjusted revenue of approximately USD 156 million (EUR 143.9 million) and an adjusted cash EBITDA of approximately USD 49 million (EUR 45.2 million) in FY 2023, with a current run rate cash EBITDA of USD 57 million (EUR 52.5 million). In the company’s 2023 annual report, Aker reported a turnaround of its Superba business with 36 percent year-on-year growth, and solid performance from its QRILL Aqua product category. However, it said its own-brand in the U.S. retail market, Kori, had lost its distribution agreement with its largest retailer, which “impacted sales significantly”

Once the transaction is finalized, likely in Q3 2024, subject to obtaining the necessary competition clearances, Aker BioMarine intends to refinance its debt “to obtain an appropriate leverage” for the remaining business. It also plans to distribute an extraordinary dividend after closing, with management expecting this to be between NOK 35 and NOK 45 (USD 3.31 and USD 4.26, EUR 3.06 and EUR 3.93) per share.

According to the Oslo Børs filing, following the transaction, Aker BioMarine will be focused on human health and nutrition, with the company consisting of three business units: Human Health Ingredients, Consumer Health Ingredients, and Emerging Businesses.

It also confirmed that Aker BioMarine has entered into a long-term contract with Feed Ingredients for the supply of krill raw materials for its Human Health Ingredients business.

Arctic, Carnegie and Rabobank acted as financial advisors to Aker BioMarine in connection with the transaction, and Schjødt as legal adviser.

In Q1 2024, Aker BioMarine reported revenue of USD 78.3 million (EUR 72.3 million), up from USD 69.1 million (EUR 63.8 million) in Q1 2023. Its adjusted EBITDA was USD 15.2 million (EUR 14 million), up from USD 6 million (EUR 5.5 million) previously.

Aker BioMarine opened a food-grade protein plant utilizing krill waste products in Ski, Norway, in September 2023. It received approval for its Qrill Aqua product by both the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2022, opening the product to the North American market. And, it began using a fully autonomous USV drone to make its krill fishing effort more sustainable.

The company, which catches around 70 percent of all harvested Antarctic krill, has predicted its krill production will exceed 60,000 MT in coming years, and previously said it is considering investing in a new krill-fishing vessel to accelerate its growth.

Focused on industrial businesses across a broad range of end markets, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, and logistics, AIP has approximately USD 16 billion (EUR 14.8 billion) in assets under management. As of 31 March 2024, its portfolio of companies was generating aggregate annual revenues of approximately USD 25 billion (EUR 23.1 billion) and employing around 65,000 people. In October 2023, AIP closed its eighth fund at USD 5.1 billion (EUR 4.7 billion).

In December 2023, AIP became the majority and controlling stakeholder in AquaShip and Internship, and merged the two companies to create the largest diversified aquaculture service vessel operator in the world.

"Krill is a powerfully evolving niche market with compelling and sustainable growth opportunities given both its nutrient dense properties and the still underutilized nature of the vast but remote Antarctic fishery," AIP Partner and Chief Investment Officer Toni Rinnevaara, Partner said. "As the industry's pioneer, the company has been a leading innovator in both krill-harvesting technologies as well as the evolution of high-value market applications of the resource through the advancement of aquaculture food science. At AIP, we put great emphasis on partnering with extraordinary people and organizations and we are wholly committed to a close collaboration with the company, its management team and Aker ASA to help Feed Ingredients achieve its great potential."  

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