Australis Aquaculture acquired


James Wright, Senior Editor

Published on
March 11, 2009

Australia-based Australis Aquaculture announced today that it sold its U.S. and Vietnamese barramundi-farming operations and subsidiaries to WM Capital of Houston, Texas.
The company in January suspended trading of its shares to pursue additional financing to assist with a loan rollover, conversion of a convertible note or repayment of a USD 2.75 million (EUR 2.5 million) in loans from secured lender and shareholder WM Capital, an affiliate of Conti Street Partners.
The acquisition was completed under the terms of a voluntary administration proceeding administered by WHK Horwath in Perth, Australia. Australis will remain an Australian Securities Exchange-listed entity.
"Australis has developed a substantial brand in the sustainable seafood category. Barramundi is being accepted as an important new seafood product by both retailers and consumers and should continue to grow as the company expands supply," said Will Mathis, WM Capital president.
Australis raises barramundi in a closed-containment farm in Turners Falls, Mass., and at farms in Southeast Asia.
Josh Goldman, managing director for Australis, told SeaFood Business that the transaction provides the necessary growth capital to increase the fish's presence at retail while also moving the investor base of the company, which will still operate with the Australis name.
"We're really focused on growing the barramundi business, both by increasing supply in Vietnam and doing what we do in the United States," said Goldman. "We're building a national presence for the ‘Better Fish' brand." Australis barramundi fillets are now available frozen in stand-up retail bags.
Goldman added that Australis will have an increased presence at next week's International Boston Seafood Show, with a larger booth, two cooking stations and live fish in a tank.
Australis' barramundi (Lates calcarifer) will also soon be promoted by Boston-based chain Legal Sea Foods, Goldman said.
"They've been watching us for a long time. We're honored they're committed to putting the fish on special and menuing it," Goldman said.

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