Private equity firm H2 Equity Partners has, for an undisclosed sum, acquired a controlling stake in Klaas Puul, a Netherlands-based shrimp producer. The deal was advised on by financial consultants from Deloitte, Squarefield and PwC, and M&A lawyers from Houthoff Buruma and Eversheds.
With a revenue of €200 million, Klaas Puul is one of the largest shrimp processors in the Netherlands. The company, founded in 1968 and based in Volendam (a fisher's city close to Amsterdam), employs 3,500 staff, across its headquarters and production facilities in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Denmark and Morocco.
Last year Klaas Puul’s management team launched a divestment process, in a bid to attract external financing, and, more importantly, to ensure continuity of the firm’s operations. The company is a family owned business, and, according to Evert Mooijer, the current owner, the firm had no proper succession plan from within the family’s ranks, triggering the owners to look at external options. “Klaas Puul still has a lot of untapped potential, yet there is no successor in the family to realise this,” he comments.
Mooijer came close to striking a deal with Bencis Capital Partners, a private equity firm, yet the sale to the investment house fell through in 2015, reportedly on the family’s valuation of the business. Roughly 12 months down the line the family run business has found its desired investor: H2 Equity Partners.
The transaction is the third major deal in recent years in the Dutch shrimp market – an industry which is finding itself in a state of change. The core process of the industry remains traditional: shrimps are caught in the North Sea, brought to land in the Netherlands and then transported with refrigerated trucks to lower wage countries (such as Morocco in the case of Klaas Puul), where local employees hand peel the shrimps for consumption. The ready to consume shrimps then are transported back to Western Europe, where they are distributed to supermarkets, restaurants and catering businesses.
The industry however is facing several trends that are impacting demand and supply, as well as the way value chains are run. Competition from the East is heating up, automation is reshaping the way production facilities are operated and, on the back of a stable period of high shrimp prices globally, M&A activity is on a high as firms are luring interest from investors, mainly private equity, seeking better returns on their cash piles. Bencis Capital Partners for instance, which missed out on Klaas Puul, claiming its asking price was too high, recently took interests in three shrimp producers – one in Belgium, one in Germany, and in May this year the firm provided growth capital to Telson, a Netherlands-based player. Last year Parlevliet & Van der Plas – the largest fish producer in the Netherlands – purchased Heiploeg, with a revenue of around €300 million Europe’s largest shrimp supplier.
For H2 the fish market is novel terrain. The investment company holds stakes in twelve companies with a combined revenue of €1.5 billion. The private equity firm has, as part of the transaction, made a change to the top of Klaas Puul, appointing Maiko van der Meer, a veteran in the food industry, as CEO of the firm. Both Van der Meer and CFO Sander van den Berg, a former PwC advisor who has been with the company since 2014, have received a shares in Klaas Puul’s equity. The Mooijer family has retained a minority share in the business.
“Klaas Puul has a strong market position and a lot of improvement and growth potential”, says Rutger Jan Vlek, Investment Director at H2. “Under the leadership of Maiko van der Meer and Sander van den Berg as financial director, investments will be made into the growth of Klaas Puul, for instance by investing in international marketing and sales, product development, production technology and capacity, enabling us to realise this potential.”
The transaction was supported by five external advisory firms. Buyer H2 was supported by Deloitte, which delivered financial advisory and tax services, with legal support coming from Houthoff Buruma. Transaction support was provided by Squarefield, an Amsterdam-based corporate finance boutique. The Mooijer family was advised by Eversheds (legal support) and PwC (M&A and transaction services).