Premium Brands, Indigenous groups complete $1-billion bid to buy Clearwater

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HALIFAX — A billion-dollar deal that marks the single biggest investment in Canada's seafood industry by an Indigenous group was finalized on Monday, with one First Nation's chief calling it a "significant achievement for the Mi'kmaq."

Vancouver-based Premium Brands Holdings Corp. and a coalition of First Nations in Atlantic Canada have each acquired half ownership of Clearwater through a new partnership, FNC Holdings Ltd., at a price of $8.25 a share.

The $1-billion transaction, including debt, is expected to see the Mi'kmaq First Nations partnership hold Clearwater's Canadian fishing licences.

Membertou First Nation Chief Terry Paul said the deal will transform Indigenous participation in the commercial fishing sector.

"This is a significant achievement for the Mi'kmaq," he said in a statement. "This collective investment by First Nations in Clearwater represents the single largest investment in the seafood industry by any Indigenous group in Canada."

The partnership, which includes Membertou, Miawpukek, Sipekne'katik, We'koqma'q, Potlotek, Pictou Landing and Paqtnkek communities, will provide more opportunities for Indigenous Peoples in the Atlantic region and bring prosperity to the communities, Paul added.

The participation in the commercial seafood sector is not expected to impact ongoing efforts by Indigenous communities in Atlantic Canada to establish a "moderate livelihood" or treaty rights-based fishery.

Clearwater fishes a variety of seafood, including scallops, lobster, clams and crab in Canada, Argentina and the U.K, with sales in 48 countries around the world.

The acquisition will allow the Halifax-based seafood company to continue to grow while preserving its culture and community presence, said Ian Smith, president and CEO of Clearwater.

"This partnership positions us to continue building on the legacy of our founders, Colin MacDonald and John Risley, while we embark on the next chapter of a remarkable Atlantic Canadian success story," he said in a statement.

Premium Brands owns a broad range of specialty food manufacturing and food distribution businesses with operations across Canada, the U.S. and Italy.

George Paleologou, president and CEO of Premium Brands, said the company's brand development capabilities and extensive customer relationships will strengthen Clearwater's business and position it to accelerate its growth.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Jan. 25, 2021.

Companies in this story: (TSX:CLR, TSX:PBH)

The Canadian Press