Stolt sells US caviar farming division, stripping away a long-held aquaculture operation

The sale chips away at another portion of what used to be a massive aquaculture empire.

Norwegian shipping, oil and seafood giant Stolt-Nielsen has reached a deal to sell its Sterling Caviar division to land-based bass and sturgeon producer Hyde Road Agricultural Associates, a source familiar with the sale told IntraFish.

Sterling Caviar owns and operates four white sturgeon farms in Sacramento, California. In 1983 it became the first commercial sturgeon farming operation in California, and has long been a part of the Stolt-Nielsen operation.

Stolt Sea Farm, the aquaculture division of Stolt-Nielsen, reported earnings in the red in the third quarter of this year, and announced that a sale of Sterling was pending.

Stolt said it expected an $8.7 million (€7.5 million) loss from the sale. The report noted Sterling had assets of nearly $7.5 million (€6.4 million) and nearly $2.2 million (€1.9 million) in total liabilities.

In April, Dixon, California-based Hyde Road received $14 million (€13 million) from private investment groups CapitalView Investment Partners and Hunter Street Partners to expand operations.

Hyde Road President and co-owner Eugene Fernandez said CapitalView and Hunter Street’s financing provided capital to refinance existing debt, fund working capital, and make capital improvements, including upgrading its processing capabilities.

Fernandez has been involved in other aquaculture operations in the past, according to press reports, including a controversial operation in Yaphank, New York called BlueGreen Farms Inc. that was planning to raise black bass and striped bass.

The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) fined the group $1.3 million (€1.1 million) for illegally mining sand to prepare the site for construction. The DEC said the fine was one of the largest environmental penalties in the state’s history.

Stolt was at one time one of Norway’s largest salmon farmers. The group merged with Marine Harvest in 2005, then owned by Nutreco. The two groups sold out to Norwegian magnate John Fredriksen in 2006, who later brought the companies together with Pan Fish to create the foundation of what is today Mowi, the world’s largest salmon farmer and the world’s most valuable seafood company.

After the sale of its caviar operations, Stolt’s remaining aquaculture operations, based in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, include turbot and sole farming.

Antarctica Advisors acted as the M&A advisor on the Sterling sale.