Argentina’s largest shrimp firm exploring sale, owner confrms

The owner of major Argentinian shrimp supplier Continental Armadores de Pesca (Conarpesa) is looking to sell the company, he con rmed to Undercurrent News.

Fernando Alvarez, Conarpesa’s owner and president, said that the company, which generates around $165 million in annual sales, is in talks with potential buyers to sell the major shrimp harvester at a “reasonable price”.

“A year ago, there were rumors that we [Conarpesa] were searching for investors to sell the group. At that time, Antarctica Advisors was doing a study on our company,” he said, adding that the search continues despite the COVID-19 pandemic. “Currently, we are still negotiating and looking for an investor who can ensure business continuity. This may not be the best time to do so, but we have been evaluating this option for a year now,” he said.

Speculation about the company’s sale plans has been rampant for several years. In 2016, Undercurrent reported that Conarpesa was in talks to sell to a Chinese firm, Dalian Huafeng Aquatic Products, which ultimately didn’t materialize.

Two years later, in 2018, Undercurrent also reported that the Canadian seafood giant Cooke was also being linked to a deal for Conarpesa’s vessels but this didn’t happen either.

At that time, CEO Glenn Cooke said that his company was looking for deals for shrimp farms, as it has always been “part of the global, resource-focused acquisition drive from Cooke” and announced its aim to become one of the world’s largest shrimp farmers.

According to Alvarez, Conarpesa operates its own fleet of 22 fishing vessels, composed of 13 factory beam trawlers, eight coastal fishing ships and one high seas wetfish trawler. The company also operates four processing plants.

“As it regards shrimp catches and exports, Conarpesa is the largest shrimp supplier in Argentina,” Alvarez said. “We used to catch squid too, but we no longer do so.”

Trade partnerships and new investments

In the meantime, Conarpesa is seeking to forge commercial and strategic alliances to create value-added products and maintain the entire supply chain from harvesting to supermarket shelves.

Recently, the Argentinean group signed a deal with Peru’s Inversiones Prisco, which will use Conarpesa-caught red shrimp for offerings such as EZ-peel, BBQpeeled, and others.

“The idea is to start off by seeking more alliances like the one we have just made with Peru and which allow us to carefully plan operations,” Alvarez explained to Undercurrent. “We had a large production volume but not enough capacity, machinery or staff to carry out the whole production process,” he added. “The partnership with Prisco gives us direct access to the final consumer and shows them the quality of our
products.”

Last year, Conarpesa tested this way of working by concluding an exclusive sales agreement in China with Shanghai Fisheries General Corporation.

“We managed to reach an agreement with the company [Shanghai Fisheries and we are willing to negotiate with them once again this year,” said Álvarez.

Conarpesa is also planning to invest €12m ($13m) in replacing two of their older vessels with new ones.

“We presented a project for each vessel and the first one has already been approved by the Enforcement Authority,” he told Undercurrent. “If and when the second one is approved, we will proceed to budgeting and designing both.”

The firm had other projects planned for this year, which will have to wait “until further notice”.

“Given the current situation due to the rapid spread of COVID-19 virus worldwide, we were forced to stop and focus our efforts on surviving and caring for the wellbeing of our workers,” Alvarez said. “This is no time for big investment projects with uncertain short-term profitability.”

Contact the author Maria.Feijoo@undercurrentnews.com

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