Canadian firm buys Icicle; Sealaska acquires share in Seattle processor

  • Photo/File/AP Icicle Seafoods dock workers sort through pink salmon at the Petersburg processing cannery branch’s sorting conveyor belt. Icicle Seafoods was purchased by a Canadian seafood company in a deal announced May 9.

KETCHIKAN — Icicle Seafoods, a prominent Alaska fishing company with its roots in Petersburg, has been bought by a Canadian company that primarily raises farmed Atlantic salmon.

Cooke Seafood Inc., based on Canada’s east coast, announced on May 9 that it had purchased Icicle for an undisclosed amount.

The deal is expected to be concluded in less than a month.

Icicle’s operations have expanded from its original operations in Petersburg to include both wild Alaskan salmon and salmon farming operations, but its purchase represents Cooke Seafood’s entry into the wild market.

“We have tremendous respect for the Alaska fishery and its highly valued brand in the seafood marketplace,” said Cooke Seafood President Glenn Cooke in the May 9 announcement.

Icicle Seafood, now based in Seattle, processes more than 330 million pounds of seafood every year, and it harvests wild salmon, crab, halibut and other groundfish. The company runs two large processing vessels, the Gordon Jensen and the R.M. Thorstensen, and 11 fishing vessels starting at 103 feet long.

Its purchase will push Cooke Seafood’s production to more than 606 million pounds and $1.8 billion in sales, according to the announcement.

Icicle Seafood’s salmon farming operations are based in Washington state.

Christopher Ruettgers, CEO of Icicle Seafoods, said the purchase would allow the company to “focus on the expansion of our footprint in Alaska” and offer “access to capital to further modernize our platform, expanded market access for the products harvested by our fleets and a broader product offering for our customer base.”

— Ketchikan Daily News staff

Sealaska acquires share of Independent Packers Corp.

JUNEAU — Southeast regional Native corporation Sealaska has announced the purchase of a minority stake in Independent Packers Corp., a Seattle-based seafood processor.

The announcement, made by email May 9, comes a week after the company announced 2015 results that show in-house revenue on the rise.

Sealaska Chief Operating Officer Terry Downes said the purchase is “our first foray” into seafood and part of Sealaska’s shift into businesses familiar to its 22,000 shareholders.

“It straddles Southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest,” Downes said. “We want to have our businesses be really relevant to the ownership.”

In the 1980s, Sealaska owned (through a subsidiary) Seattle Seafoods and Seafood Packers Inc., two Washington-based firms that were subsequently sold to Trident Seafoods. It has also previously invested in mariculture operations to grow shellfish.

Downes declined to disclose the size of Sealaska’s investment or what percentage the minority share will be.

Independent Packers president Jeff Buske did not respond to inquiries before press time.

Independent Packers is a custom-processing company that works “in the middle of the supply chain,” Downes said.

It doesn’t catch fish and it doesn’t sell them in stores. Rather, it finishes filets and products on behalf of other companies, effectively acting as a third-party contractor.

According to Sealaska’s initial announcement, IPC has approximately 130 employees in Seattle and works principally with red and king salmon.

The purchase is part of a new business strategy begun by Sealaska in 2012. In that strategy, Sealaska decided to focus on three corporate groups: natural resources (a group that includes timber), natural foods (home to the IPC stake) and Sealaska Government Services, which will focus on “water, energy and maritime services,” according to the company’s 2015 annual report.

Sealaska posted a $73 million loss in 2013, but that loss was partially offset by income received through the 7(i) program, which requires Alaska Native regional corporations to share revenue from mineral development.

Sealaska makes money when 7(i) money is included on its balance sheets, but the company’s own operations still post a loss. Last week, Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott said the company is on track to break even on its own operations by 2017. He said the acquisition of two businesses would be part of that effort.

Downes said IPC is one of those businesses. The other, an oceanography corporation, will fit into Sealaska’s government services grouping. A deal is expected to close on that acquisition by the end of the month, he said.

— James Brooks, Morris News Service-Alaska/Juneau Empire

05/11/2016 - 4:17pm