The CEO and largest owner in Norwegian salmon farmer SalMar said his ambition for offshore aquaculture was missing a key element: a visionary whose expertise in the ocean economy could make it a reality.
On Thursday, the news broke that SalMar and Aker, owned by billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke, are entering into a strategic collaboration to establish a new global offshore aquaculture company.
The new jointly owned company, SalMar Aker Ocean, will farm fish both in weather-exposed areas and far offshore, with ambitions of eventually taking their project into international waters.
"We recognized that we needed a strategic partner to close the knowledge gaps we saw -- we lacked the competence to fully realize and put power behind offshore farming,” Witzoe said Thursday.
“So I picked up the phone one afternoon, I searched my contacts, and thought, 'How can I get Kjell Inge Rokke?'”
The call with Rokke was “met with fantastic enthusiasm.”
By the next day, he was in Froya, Norway, to meet with with Witzoe. “When we finished the conversation, we agreed that we had to meet as soon as possible,” said Rokke.
At the presentation of SalMar’s second quarter financial results on Thursday, Witzoe, said it was a "historic day" and introduced the heavy hitters who will make up the board of the new company.
The board of the new group includes Witzoe, Aker President and CEO Oyvind Eriksen, ex-SalMar chairman and Mowi CEO Atle Eide and billionaire Kjell Inge Rokke, who launched his career in the Alaska fishing industry before establishing the Aker Group of companies and becoming one of Norway's richest individuals.
The addition of Rokke to the aquaculture venture was perhaps the most surprising, as the billionaire has avoided the sector to instead focus on wild fisheries projects, such as his whitefish harvesting group Aker Seafoods (which eventually became Norway Seafoods, now a part of Leroy Seafood) and krill fishing and processing group Aker BioMarine.
SalMar has been among the few salmon farmers to invest in offshore aquaculture via its Ocean Farm 1 project, which is developed under the Norwegian development license project.
The establishment of the joint company is subject to customary closing conditions, and closing is expected in the first quarter of next year.
The two groups said the initial public offering (IPO) is planned for between one to two-years' time.