Fish firm defies slump in shrimp industry

Biotech firm Benchmark Holdings, which develops vaccines to keep fish healthy, has reported resilient trading despite a slump in the shrimp industry, which has taken a significant hit from Covid-19 lockdowns with demand falling as much as 60 per cent.

Salmon broodstock at a Benchmark facility

As people eat out less often amid the pandemic, shrimp prices have fallen.

However, the Sheffield-based firm said the salmon industry remains resilient and the sea bass and sea bream market is relatively stable.

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Revenues from continuing operations rose 8 per cent to £24.5m in the three months to June 30. This was due to a good performance in the genetics division with revenues in line with the previous year and higher revenues in the advanced nutrition business, which benefitted from a partial catch-up of delayed orders as a result of Covid-19.

Lower revenues in animal health were attributed to the comparable period last year benefitting from revenues derived from trials of BMK08, the firm’s sea lice treatment.

Benchmark’s CEO, Trond Williksen, said: “We are very pleased with the significant progress made over the last few months towards the completion of the disposal of non-core assets and the cash proceeds generated.

“Following the restructuring we are well advanced to become a streamlined, financially strong business wholly focused on our core businesses - genetics, advanced nutrition and health. We continue to work on our restructuring programme which aims to deliver £10m in annual savings from 2021 taking us a step closer towards our goal of becoming sustainably profitable.”

He said that while the shrimp market is experiencing challenges as a result of Covid-19, the salmon market remains resilient. The firm expects full year results to be in line with expectations.

Septima Maguire, CFO, added: “The completion of our disposal programme generating up to £44m, together with our ongoing cash conservation plan puts us in a strong financial position to remain resilient through the Covid-19 pandemic and to invest selectively in our business to deliver future growth.”

Adjusted EBITDA from continuing operations was £300,000 against a £1.4m loss in the 2019 quarter, reflecting higher revenues and higher margins in genetics as external production moves in-house. It also reflects a reduction in operating costs and R&D expenses during Covid-19.