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Hopes high for No Catch

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Pete Bevington and Hans J Marter

21 February, 2008

THE ADMINISTRATOR brought in to run fish farming firm No Catch this week said he hoped to have a new buyer running the company within the next six weeks.

The search is on to find buyers for the No Catch group of companies.The world’s first organic cod farming business called in administrators Grant Thornton on Tuesday after failing to find a new financial backer to meet its debts of around £40 million.

Fears for the firm’s 130 staff eased last night as joint administrator Daniel Smith expressed optimism that a buyer would be found shortly.

Mr Smith said the company had spent the past three years building up a strong business which was about to bear fruit with “serious numbers of fish” just reaching the point they were ready to harvest.

However the company ran out of cash at the crucial moment, and despite struggling to find a backer during the past three months they had been forced to call in the administrators.

He said it would be easier to sell No Catch now that there were no shareholders looking for a return on their investment. Instead the new owner will be asked to pay off the company’s debts, which include around £1 million owed to Shetland Development Trust, all that’s left of an initial £2.8 million loan.

Yesterday afternoon Mr Smith said that he had already been contacted by several interested parties, one of whom hoped to put together a bid before the end of this week.

The company owns fish farminf sites at 12 locations in the waters around Shetland.“I am in a good position in some respects in that a lot of the investment is already there, it’s all about to come good, the projections and forecasts demonstrate that is the case and I just need to find a buyer for the business,” he said.

“Some of the discussions that the company were having prior to my appointment had reached quite an advanced stage.

“I have met with one interested party who is looking to formulate a bid within the next 48 hours, and I have also been contacted by other interested parties who had previously looked at the business but were not interested in investing at that juncture.

“Now they would be interested in buying the business back from the administrator so the prognosis looks very good and I am very encouraged by the discussions I have had to date.”

Mr Smith said it was an international firm which had shown the most interest so far, and he hoped that a sale could be finalised within the next five or six weeks.

No Catch was set up in March 2005 after city investment firm Milestone Capital financed a £21 million management buy out from Vidlin fish farmers Angus and Ivor Johnson. Since then the company is understood to have brought in another £15 million from banking interests.

The company launched an ambitious programme of investment, purchasing the NuFish cod hatchery in Sandwick for £3 million and taking over Danny Watt’s processing factory in Scalloway to run an integrated operation from larvae to fully grown fish.

They also ran their own marketing drive under the brand No Catch…Just Cod, suggesting their farmed cod could replace dwindling wild cod stocks. They hoped to satisfy 10 per cent of UK demand for cod by 2012 with 30,000 tonnes of fish.

The company won backing from the Organic Food Federation, Friends of the Sea, the RSPCA and the Marine Conservation Society for their environmentally friendly approach to growing fish.

They won 14 awards in just 12 months and had recently started exporting to Switzerland and Japan.
 


Most recent update - Tuesday, 06 May 2008 17:07
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