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Cooke in talks for Ocean Beauty stake

Canadian seafood giant Cooke Aquaculture is in talks to acquire all or part of Seattle-based processor Ocean Beauty, sources close to the deal told IntraFish.

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Ocean Beauty, one of Alaska's largest seafood processors with around $500 million in revenue, is half owned by community development quota group Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation (BBEDC). The remaining stake is owned by a consortium of longtime private owners, including Howard Klein, Mike Selby and Ron Shaw.

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Due diligence on the deal is underway, one source told IntraFish.

With Ocean Beauty, Cooke would control a vast network of Alaska processing assets, and add Ocean Beauty's smoked salmon operations and Echo Falls brand, as well as its West Coast distribution network.

Ocean Beauty operates Alaska-based facilities in Bristol Bay, Kodiak Island, Prince William Sound, Excursion Inlet and Petersburg.

Distribution facilities deliver to Utah, Nevada, Idaho and Wyoming among other states, supplying a full line of fresh and frozen seafood. The company also operates a sales office in Tokyo, Japan, focusing primarily on ikura.

Sources told IntraFish Cooke had expressed interest in Ocean Beauty informally two years ago.

Cooke acquired Alaska seafood processor Icicle Seafoods in 2016, giving it a major foothold in the Alaska industry, with wild salmon, cod and Alaska pollock processing operations, among other assets. In addition, Cooke took ownership of the group's Washington State salmon farms, though an escape in 2017 led to an upcoming ban on salmon farming in state waters.

Cooke has been on a major buying spree in the past few years, adding on California fresh seafood distributor All Sea Wholesale in March, Nicaraguan shrimp producer Seajoy in February and Omega Protein in late 2017 -- it's largest acquisition in its 32-year history.

Officials from BBEDC and Cooke Aquaculture were unavailable to comment to IntraFish.

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