Thai Union buys tuna company Bumble Bee for $1.5bn

Posted on 23 Dec 2014 by Tim Brown

Thai Union, one of the world’s largest producers of canned tuna, is set to acquire Bumble Bee, North America's largest largest canned tuna and sardine producer, from private equity firm Lion Capital for $1.5bn.

The deal is likely to be completed in the second half of 2015, so long as US antimonopoly authorities approve the sale.

Thai Union president and chief executive Thiraphong Chansiri, whose company has operated in the US for over 17 years and counts Walmart and Costco as existing clients, said he expected a “positive response” from the authorities.

The Thai firm, which owns the John West and Chicken of the Sea brands, has been on an acquisition spree in the past year in its quest to reach $8bn in revenue by 2020.

Earlier this year, it announced that it was buying Norwegian seafood firm King Oscar and French smoked salmon producer MerAlliance for undisclosed sums.

Bumble Bee encompasses brands including Brunswick and Sweet Sue. It was bought by pan-Atlantic private equity firm Lion Capital from New York-based private-equity firm Centre Partners Management LLC for $980m in 2010.

The acquisition will make Thai Union the largest supplier of canned tuna in the United States with an estimated 38% of the US market share.

Greenpeace responded to the deal and said that it provided an opportunity for Thai Union to help rectify Bumble Bee’s poor sustainability record.

John Hocevar, oceans campaign director for Greenpeace, said: “Thai Union claims that it takes sustainability and human rights seriously, and the acquisition of Bumble Bee provides a chance to prove to consumers and stakeholders that it is a responsible global seafood supplier. It must now work to clean up the problems in Bumble Bee’s supply chain, which include links to illegal and destructive fishing, shark finning, and human rights abuses associated with longline fishing.

“By concentrating on misleading marketing, rather than real change to protect the health and sustainability of our oceans, Bumble Bee has been leading the North American tuna industry in the wrong direction. Thai Union can reverse that course by transforming Bumble Bee into a company that demonstrates full product traceability, while providing sustainable and socially responsible fish. Greenpeace and American consumers will be watching closely to see how Thai Union resolves the sustainability problems it is inheriting with the purchase of Bumble Bee.”

Greenpeace has also launched a campaign to get the canned tuna industry to clean up its act and end its destructive ways and teamed up with Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Mark Fiore on this video.