SOUTH AFRICA – Africa’s largest fishing company, Oceana Group, has continued its growth trajectory started three years ago, reporting a rise in profit before tax by 5%, headline earnings per share up 4%, and earnings per share up 13% at the interim stage.

Group CEO, Imraan Soomra said that demand remained strong right across its product spectrum, despite the COVID related supply chain disruptions.

“I am particularly pleased that we have maintained our growth trajectory in this environment, delivering further earnings growth after a strong performance last year.

“Furthermore, we de-geared our balance sheet, cutting debt in South Africa by 6% and our US debt – in dollars – by 5%. This – together with a more favorable interest rate in South Africa – helped bring our net interest expense down significantly – by 32% to R94 million (US$6.9m),” Imraan said.

The company recorded good landings and strong demand for horse mackerel, while hake was affected by Covid-related disruptions.

“Canned fish demand remained positive and we grew market share off a high base in the previous period. As consumers turned increasingly to staples, Lucky Star benefited from its positioning as an affordable protein,” he added.

Frozen fish availability was impacted by Covid-related disruptions, including delays at the port in Cape Town, and this resulted in reduced production levels and canned fish inventory. Oceana had built up inventories in the prior period, which mitigated the shortage to some extent.

Although over the six months the company lost 5% in canned pilchard volumes due to supply chain disruptions, it gained back 4% in a price increase – which was well received by consumers despite a very constrained environment.

“All in all, we estimate lost revenue due to Covid-related disruptions at R73 million (US$5.3m) and a corresponding operating profit reduction of some R34 million (US$2.5m),” Imraan indicated.

As expected, group revenue for the period was weighed down by the performance of the fishmeal and fish oil segment in the US on the back of the significantly lower prior season catch, with Daybrook’s stock levels 36% down on last year.

However, fishmeal offtake volumes performed better than expected with continued demand from US pet food manufacturers, while overall pricing for both fishmeal and fish oil increased.

The US 2021 fishing season started on 19 April and will run until the end of October. Early season indicators are positive.

Oceana expects a continued rise in demand of its products in the second half year period

Looking ahead, Imraan said that while economic conditions are still uncertain, the outlook for Oceana included strong demand for its products, and strong pricing for fish meal and fish oil.

The prospects for recovery in hake were good, and steady landings were anticipated for fish meal and oil, hake and horse mackerel.

Lucky Star is expected to continue to attract consumers given its relative affordability and will seek to maintain its popularity as a protein of choice for consumers.

All indications for a good season at Daybrook are positive. US operations are well positioned for strong fleet deployment and plant availability to meet anticipated growth in fishmeal and fish oil demand.

The 2021 FRAP process has commenced with the publishing of draft economic impact assessments and the appointment of service providers. The DFFE Ministry has committed itself to a transparent and accountable process that concludes by December 2021.

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