Coast Seafood, one of Norway's largest seafood exporters, has filed a complaint with the Norwegian Competition Authority against salmonid farmers Firda Seafood Group and Blom Group, the majority owner of Blom Fiskeoppdrett, after they entered into a cooperation agreement in March.
Maaloy-based Coast Seafood owns 34 percent of Blom Fiskeoppdrett, while Blom Group owns 66 percent.
On April 29, Sverre Soraa, CEO of Coast Seafood and his lawyer Beret Sundet of BAHR, notified the Norwegian Competition Authority of "matters of concern," and requested an investigation be launched into the cooperation between the two salmonid farmers.
Among other things, Soraa said he had been informed that Ola Braanaas, the owner of Firda Seafood, would be elected as a board member of Blom Fiskeoppdrett, with his lawyer, Mons Alfred Paulsen, as personal deputy member.
"It is startling that the Blom Group plans to elect two people from Firda to the board of Fiskeoppdrett," said Soraa.
Firda Seafood Group is a competitor in the aquaculture industry, he said. Therefore Braanaas and Paulsen cannot get competition-sensitive information about Blom Fiskeoppdrett.
"In practice, it will then not be possible for Braanaas and Paulsen to function as board members in Blom Fiskeoppdrett if the Competition Act is to be complied with, as too many of the board cases will contain competition-sensitive information," said Soraa.
Coast Seafood believes this is a violation of section 10 of the Competition Act, which states that "it is prohibited for companies to cooperate in a way that restricts competition."
"We have tried to have a constructive approach to Blom's repeated breaches of the shareholder agreement and the way the Blom family has destroyed shareholder value in Blom Fiskeoppdrett in recent years," said Soraa.
"When they now break both the competition law and the shareholder agreement at the same time, we have had enough. This can not be allowed to continue."
"We now ask the Norwegian Competition Authority to intervene and stop this as soon as possible and will also prosecute the breaches of the shareholder agreement legally," said Soraa.
In a joint response, Ola Braanaas and Jakob Blom argued the cooperation agreement between the two companies would optimize fish production in the area, with a focus on fish health, cost optimization, and efficient operations.
"As part of Firda's entry on the ownership side, it is natural that Firda gains influence in the form of participation in the board of Blom Group and its subsidiaries, including Blom Fiskeoppdrett," said the parties.
"We do not understand the comment that comes from Coast, but emphasize that Coast as a 34 percent shareholder in Blom Fiskeoppdrett will have every opportunity to promote their views on the company's board (where they are also represented) and as owner, in the usual way," said Braanaas and Blom, adding, they have always been loyal and correct to the shareholder agreement with Coast.
On May 4, Bergen District Court ruled that there will be a breach of the shareholder agreement between Blom Gruppen and Coast Seafood if Ola Braanaas or others from Firda are elected to the board of Blom Fiskeoppdrett.
Blom Group disagrees with the ruling.
Separately, in December, Coast Seafood started a new case against its partly owned salmon and trout farming company Blom Fiskeoppdrett, asking for compensation and continued delivery of fish.
Coast reached an agreement in 2014 with Blom to sell all of the fish the farmer produced.
Blom stopped supplying Coast with its fish in October 2020 as a result of a dispute, a move that Coast says is a violation of their agreement.