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“We are excited about the acquisition of Iceland Seafood UK Ltd. and the myriad of opportunities it presents to Espersen,” said CEO Klaus B. Nielsen in announcing the purchase of Iceland Seafood International’s UK operation located in Grimsby, UK. The company says this strategic move is intended to reinforce its commitment to provide “unparalleled service to UK customers and enhancing operational efficiency.”

Shaping the future on the UK market

“This acquisition is more than just a business decision; it is a commitment to our customers, our employees, and the industry,” continued Espersen’s CEO. Klaus B. Nielsen added that while its roots and dedication are firmly with its existing customers and partners, this acquisition reaffirms the company’s commitment to growth.

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“We believe that our new UK facility and its leadership team will play a critical role in shaping Espersen’s future on the UK market, allowing us to serve our customers better and fortify our position as a local supplier,” he added. Long-lasting relationships with its existing customers in the UK, as well as mitigating current and future Brexit-related trade barriers remains the Danish company’s primary focus.

An objective shared by Iceland Seafood UK (IS UK), as stated by its Managing Director, Glen Mathews. “Joining hands with a renowned name like Espersen is a significant milestone for us,” he said. “We are excited to contribute to the legacy of quality and trust that Espersen represents and introduce this on a larger scale to the UK fish market.”

Integration is underway

As stated in the announcement of the acquisition, the Danish company and the local IS UK management team are already planning a smooth integration into Espersen which, they stress, will require “dedication and a collective effort” from both teams. “But with our shared passion for excellence and industry expertise, we are confident in achieving a seamless transition,” Nielsen said.

“With the solid foundation of Iceland Seafood UK Ltd. being integrated into our family, we are optimally positioned to tackle the evolving demands of the fish industry in the UK market. The coming year promises to be one of growth and fortified partnerships,” he added.

The UK market is one of the leading seafood markets in Europe and is Espersen’s largest single market. The Danish value-added producer has factory operations in Europe and Asia and a significant portion of its sales in the UK retail market. When the transaction is completed in September, it will own 100% of the share capital of IS UK.

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A sale with substantial losses for ISI

In its release, Espersen said that it has been in dialogue with Iceland Seafood UK Ltd. for almost a year, but that at the end of 2022, the talks stopped due to the continuing turbulence in the markets. “Time has worked for the two companies and the new entity, Espersen UK Ltd, is now a reality,” it claimed.

With that clue, everything seems to indicate that Espersen was the “respected industry player” with whom Iceland Seafood International (ISI) had signed a Letter of Intent (‘LOI’) in early December that shortly thereafter was canceled. At the time, the company said that negotiations had been unsuccessful and that it would talk to other potential buyers, but only two months later announced that it had decided to keep its UK subsidiary as the proposals received did not reflect the value of the business.

Now, about six months later, the Icelandic company announced that, after four difficult years in the UK, they have decided “to divest the IS UK business with a substantial loss.” According to the CEO of ISI, Bjarni Ármannsson, this was the right decision for Iceland Seafood as a business. “This investment has been a great cost for the company and its shareholders. It’s been a very tough market during these years, and we have tried with immense effort to turn this around without success,” he said. “I’m confident that the interests of our employees and customers are well served within Espersen AS and I wish Espersen all the best in this market. And I believe they can use the assets better than we have been able due to their strong position in the UK value-added seafood market,” he concluded. 

About Espersen

Espersen is a world leader in the production of frozen fish blocks, frozen fillets, specialty cuts, and luxury breaded and flaked fish products. With production plants in Denmark, Lithuania, Poland, Vietnam, and now also the United Kingdom, it also has representative offices in France, Germany, Sweden, and Denmark. Most of its products are custom-made private labels; however, it also has its own locally branded products.

Espersen is recognized internationally in the industry as a responsible company for which sustainable development is a natural and vital part of its daily operations, and everything it does is geared towards continued access to fish resources and to help lead the fish industry on a sustainable pathway.

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