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Tricky tides for fishing sector

A High Court decision which lifts an interdict that precluded the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF) from awarding hake fishing rights for the inshore trawl fishery is certain to send ominous ripples through the local fishing industry.

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Brimstone records bumper year

Brimstone today released its results for the financial year ended 31 December 2016, recording a 22% increase in revenue and a 147% increase in operating profit. A dividend of 42 cents per share was declared.

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Premfish baits investors

Cape Town-based Premier Fishing has confirmed its listing on the JSE this year, and with that development the company has offered some interesting insights into future profit projections.

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Oceana delivers operating profit growth of 69% at the full year

Oceana Group Limited says it has demonstrated its ability to keep delivering value to shareholders while maintaining good financial discipline in managing its balance sheet. For the year ended 30 September, Group revenue grew by 34% to R8.2bn, operating profit increased by 69% to R1.7bn, and headline earnings increased by 34%. As a result of the diluting effect of the additional shares issued in September 2015, headline earnings per share (HEPS) increased by 20%, resulting in a five-year compound annual growth rate in HEPS of 12%.

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Premier’s big catch

PREMIER Fishing (PremFish) – the seafood specialist controlled by BEE company African Equity Empowerment Investments (AEEI) – has landed a bigger profit catch than initially expected. AEEI recently reported that in the year to end August PremFish not only increased its sales volumes, but also achieved better pricing, managed to secure good catch rates and efficient vessel scheduling and utilisation. PremFish consequently saw revenue growth of 15% to R401m and operating profit increasing to R75m (compared with R68m in the prior year.)

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Oceana’s big freeze

CAPE TOWN-based Oceana Group, Africa’s largest fishing company, is markedly increasing imports of frozen pilchards to meet local demand for its iconic Lucky Star canned pilchards brand – a staple meal in many South African households. Oceana operates across most segments in the fishing industry – ranging from horse mackerel, fish meal, hake, squid and west coast lobster. But its largest profit segment is in the canned pilchard sector, where is holds dominant market shares in most regions in South Africa.

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Wesgro assists Cape companies do business in Angola

This week Wesgro is hosting a senior delegation from the Angolan Economic Ministry’s task team to revive the Lusophone nation’s economy. Wesgro is arranging meetings for the delegation with key Cape companies invested in Angola such as Shoprite, Oceana and Fruit & Veg City. They are also meeting with potential new investors whose entrance to the market will be facilitated by Wesgro.

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Current profits buoyed

THE tide still favours the local fishing sector with all four major companies based in the Western Cape once again netting impressive profit hauls.

‘Big fish’ Oceana reported a whopping 76% growth in operating profits to R269m in the half year to end March. The top-line was skewed with the recent acquisition of US-based fish oil and fish meal specialist Daybrook Fisheries, which pushed revenue up 40% to R3,6bn. Gross profits were up 38% to R1,34bn with the gross margin reassuringly steady at 36%.  

If Daybrook was excluded, then Oceana’s revenue – anchored by its Lucky Star canned pilchards’ operation – would have been up 13% to R2,9bn and operating profit would have increased 16% to R437m.

Oceana CEO Francois Kuttel said local sales volumes for Lucky Star were up 13% and overall volumes up 10% with the brand gaining market share in key regions. The Lucky Star improved its market share in the ‘inland regions’ by 7% to a commanding 80,9%, while the market share in the Eastern Cape shifted up 3,5% to 83,6%.

Kuttel said the pilchard canning effort was greatly helped by a significant increase in frozen volumes to local factories. He said Lucky Star increased local canned production from 2,5 million to 5,2 million cartons thanks to the increase in frozen imported pilchards. Kuttel said there was also a material improvement in pilchard landing due to a quota rollover from 2015 season.

Looking ahead, Kuttel said Lucky Star’s prospects were bright as fish was becoming more affordable compared to total food and non-alcoholic beverages. He said Lucky Star had managed to pass a price increase of 6% effective from April, and that an October price increase was under review depending on the Rand exchange rate. Kuttell said there was a strong promotional campaign undertaken by the company to draw market share from the chicken industry - which is still perceived as the cheapest form of protein by consumers.

Premier Fishing, which is controlled by empowerment company (African Empowerment Equity Investments (AEEI) reported revenue up 22% to R170m and operating profits up 21% to R22,5m in the half year to end February. More impressive was that Premier’s cash generated from operations was up almost fourfold to R24m. Premier has a dominant 60% share of the South Coast rock lobster market – but also catches West Coast rock lobster, anchovy, pilchards, squid and hake as well as operating abalone farms.

AEEI CEO Khalid Abdullah said the fishing business was being positioned for growth over the next three years to unlock shareholder value and raise capital to invest into the future growth of the business.

He said key deliverables to grow the business includes the acquisition of small to medium fishing businesses and the expansion of the abalone aquaculture farm in Gansbaai to over 250 tons. Abdullah said Premier Fishing’s target was to grow annual turnover to at least R500m.

Cape Town’s hake fishing stalwarts I&J and Sea Harvest also enjoyed sizeable profit catches despite facing some operational headwinds. I&J, controlled by consumer brands conglomerate AVI, reported a 1,9% increase in revenue to just over R1bn in the half year to end December. But operating profit was up 63% to R160m with the profit margin fattening markedly to 16%.

AVI directors said I&J’s revenue growth reflected the benefit of the weaker Rand on export sales and selling price increases. Profits were helped by the lower fuel price, improved fishing recoveries, additional fishing days (after commissioning new vessels recently) and improved fishing recovery. I& J said it had increased its market share from 44,2% to 46,1%.

I&J said its project to expand its abalone aquaculture to 500 tons was proceeding well.

Sea Harvest, which is controlled by Brimstone Investment Corporation, saw operating profit before interest increasing by 11% to R122m in the year to end December. Revenue was 1% higher than prior year despite a 5% reduction in catch volumes. Sea Harvest noted fishing conditions were very challenging - especially in the second half of the year. But prices for hake remained strong and there was a 10% volume growth in the export market where demand was high.

Sea Harvest continued with its capital investment programme by converting an existing trawler to a freezer trawler as well as upgrading its fresh fish plant. The company pointed out that in the last two years over R200m has been invested in vessels and plant upgrades.

Oceana’s hake business – much enlarged after the Lusitania and Foodcorp - also looked in fine fettle with good volumes reported and revenue boosted by the weaker exchange rate. Kuttel said profit “materially improved” on the prior year and anticipated continued product demand with exchange rate weakness further contributing to revenue growth.

He said Oceana was exploring Asian markets for its hake.

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