Food conglomerate Tiger Brands has snagged another 4,5% of fishing group Oceana in a deal that surprised market watchers.
The company is thought to have bought a parcel of Oceana shares held by Deutsche Bank Securities. Tiger now owns 41,9% of the company. No further details on the transaction were provided though the value of the deal is around R400m.
Tiger chief executive Peter Matlare hardly mentions Oceana in the company's latest annual report. But Oceana - especially its strong selling Lucky Star pilchards brand - might appeal to Tiger's African ambitions.
The deal is surprising because Tiger's increased participation might be construed as weakening Oceana's empowerment credentials.
Empowerment levels have become an increasingly important consideration in the local fishing sector and companies' ability to pursue corporate action often hinges on suitable BEE rankings.
Oceana, which has a balance sheet that can accommodate sizeable deals, is at odds with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries over its BEE status. Oceana's potential weakness is that it has relatively shallow empowerment at equity level, though it scores highly at staffing, procurement and other key areas.
A proposed deal by Oceana to buy parts of the Lusitania Fishing Group was recently diluted as Oceana was given approval to buy parts of the company but was not allowed to take control of the lucrative south coast lobster division.
Some market commentators wondered why the highly-rated empowerment investment company Brimstone did not take up the available Oceana shares.
Brimstone already owns 16,83% of Oceana and also holds options in Tiger Brands as part of a BEE deal. Brimstone chairman Fred Robertson says the Oceana shares bought by Tiger were not offered to the company.
Brimstone also holds a 58,1% stake in hake fishing specialist Sea Harvest There has long been speculation that Brimstone would offer to incorporate Sea Harvest into the larger - and more diversified - Oceana.