Thai Union, the tuna giant now also ‘fishing’ for Italian brands?

The Bangkok-based company, owner of the Mareblu brand in Italy, wants to continue with its aggressive acquisition campaign of recent years. The goal: European and American brands

After the turmoil of the military coup, the biggest Thai companies have started to plan for the future again and among these one of the most important and open to international markets is Thai Union Frozen Products, a giant in the fish sector and owner of the Mareblu brand in Italy. It is on the hunt for further acquisitions on the Western markets, where it seeks to further consolidate its presence thanks to the acquisition of additional brands, as is explained in an analysis in the Financial Times. Thai Union, which is little known in Italy despite it owning the Mareblu brand, is already a global giant in the fish sector, with consolidated revenues equal to approximately 3 billion Euros in 2013 and profits of nearly 80 million Euros. Half of its turnover comes from tinned tuna, followed by prawns, of which Thailand is the world’s largest exporter, salmon and even pet food, with operations ranging from Portugal to Papua New Guinea and from Africa to England. Some of its well-known tuna brands in Europe are John West in England, Petit Navire in France, Chicken of the Sea in the United States, and as already mentioned, Mareblu in Italy, the result of a previous round of acquisitions. Last year the company focused on salmon, acquiring the Norwegian brand King Oscar and the French brand Mer Alliance before then turning to tuna with the agreement to acquire the American brand Bumble Bee sea foods for one and a half billion dollars (1.3 billion euros), its second American producer, which if Antitrust gives it blessing, will be added to Chicken of the Sea which already occupies third position. Bumble Bee has been valued at a strong 50% more than the private equity company Lion Capital paid only five years ago and this gives the sense of how much Thai Union is focused on growth at every cost, with the aim of achieving a turnover of 8 billion dollars by 2020 as stated by its president, Thiraphong Chansiri, of the same name company. In other words, doubling current production and with a margin that should grow more than proportionately, thanks to the premium brands to be added.
It is a demanding development plan, which now turns to Europe, and it is no coincidence that the Chansiri family is interested in acquiring the English football team, Sheffield Wednesday. Self-promotion to strengthen relations on the English and continental markets, waiting for the next moves which are sure to worry italian players as well, such as Bolton (Rio Mare, Palmera, Saupiquet) or the Spanish of the Calvo group, the current leaders on the continent. At the moment it is not known what prey Thai Union has its sights set on: what is certain though is that the growth of the Bangkok-based group will be sudden and based on acquisitions on the rich European market after having already consolidated the American one.

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