Icelandic Group hf

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Icelandic Group hf

Borgartun 27
Telephone: +354 560 7800
Fax: +354 562 1252
Web site:

Public Company
1942 as Sölumi'stö' hra'frystihúsanna (Icelandic Freezing Plants Corporation)
Employees: 3,300
Sales: EUR 1.2 billion ($1.52 billion) (2005) Stock Exchanges: Iceland
Ticker Symbol: IG
NAIC: 311712 Fresh and Frozen Seafood Processing; 311711 Seafood Canning; 424460 Fish and Seafood Merchant Wholesalers; 551112 Offices of Other Holding Companies

Icelandic Group hf is the holding company for an internationally operating group of companies focused on the seafood market. Icelandic's companies, which operate for the most part as independent units, are engaged in the production, processing, and distribution of seafood products. The largest part of the group's operations are in the frozen seafood segment, and Icelandic is a major supplier of frozen fish to the international private-label and third-party channels. Retail sales represent 39 percent of the group's turnover, and the foodservice industry adds 38 percent. Industrial and related sales add the remaining 23 percent to the group's revenues. The bulk of Icelandic's fish production is in whitefish, although the company also produces shellfish, shrimp, and mollusks.

Since the early 2000s Icelandic also has engaged a strategy targeting the development of production and distribution operations in the fast-growing fresh and chilled seafood segments, as consumers increasingly seek out easy-to-prepare and ready-to-eat foods. As such, the group has completed a number of acquisitions, including Pickenpack Hussman und Hahn in Germany, and Seachill and the seafood division of Cavaghan & Gray in 2005. Also that year, Icelandic Group completed a merger with fellow Icelander Blue Ice Group, a leading seafood supplier to the Asian markets. Icelandic Group has procurement subsidiaries in Iceland, Norway, The Netherlands, South Korea, and, since 2006, in China. The company owns production and processing operations in Iceland, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Germany, and sales and marketing subsidiaries in Germany, France, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Japan. In 2005, the company posted revenues of EUR 1.2 billion ($1.5 billion). Fresh and chilled fish represent 25 percent of those sales, while processed fish has reached 33 percent of sales. Icelandic Group is listed on the Iceland Stock Exchange.


With an abundance of fish in the oceans around Iceland, the fishing industry became the country's largest in the first half of the 20th century. Long ruled by the Danish crown, Iceland established itself as an independent country in the 1920s. As such, the development of the country's industrial and commercial base became of prime importance for its economy. The fishing industry was to provide the motor for the country's emergence as an independent state, and by the end of the 1930s, Iceland had established itself as an important exporter of fish and fish products.

Into the first years of World War II, Iceland's fishing exports relied on traditional salt curing or pickling preservation techniques. During the war, however, during which time the island country was used as a base first for British and then for American armed forces, the country was introduced to new freezing technologies being developed for the food industries. The possibility of freezing fish, which left the flavor of fish comparatively unaltered, presented a new opportunity for the young country.

In 1942, a group of Icelandic fish producers and processors joined together to form a mutually owned company, called Sölumi'stö' hra'frystihúsanna (Icelandic Freezing Plants Corporation). Icelandic's initial mission was to act as a sales representative for its members, which operated their own freezing plants, developing new markets and customers for the country's frozen fish production. Icelandic also was charged with the procurement of supplies and equipment needed for its members' freezing operations, as well as with developing and improving freezing technologies and frozen fish products. The company operated on a cooperative basis, guaranteeing the purchase of its members' production.

Icelandic quickly began putting in place an international sales network, starting with the United States in 1945. The company opened a sales agency in New York that year, and later developed its own fish processing facilities in that country. The United States represented the most prominent market for frozen fish at the time. For one, frozen food technologies had been developed in the United States, and the country already had a strong infrastructure in place for frozen food transportation, storage, and handling. For another, the country had pioneered the supermarket format, which prominently featured frozen food sections. In turn, the U.S. consumer market had the highest penetration of home freezers in the world; indeed, in many countries, home freezers remained a novelty until well into the 1960s. In the United States, Icelandic quickly became an important brand name in the frozen fish sector. This was reinforced with the launch of production operations in the United States, with the opening of a new processing plant in 1954.


Despite its early focus on the United States, the company also sought to build a sales network in Europe. In 1946, Icelandic opened its first European sales office. The United Kingdom represented a close and important market for the company as well, and by 1955, Icelandic had established its first operations in that country. At first, Icelandic focused on the restaurant sector, setting up its own network of fish and chip shops in that country. By 1958, the company also had begun to process fish products locally, with the opening of a plant in Gravesend. This facility enabled the group to enter the retail channel.


Icelandic Group's Vision: Icelandic Group is an international network of companies, each operating in their own market in the processing and marketing of seafood. The Group employs about 4,000 people. The personnel include renowned experts in the field of fishing and primary processing, product innovation and value-added processing, and in the worldwide marketing of seafood products.

Icelandic Group is built on the strong pillars of over 60 years' experience in selling frozen fish products from Iceland and other countries. This is the background for the present processing and product expertise that underpins the sharp focus on product development and innovation, stable and good product quality, and efficient customer service. Icelandic Group is focused on widening its product range in order to fulfil customer needs. The ambition for the Group is to be a leader in its field and provider of expert knowledge on seafood for its customers in all market areas.

Icelandic Group will continue to focus on its strong points: production and sales of seafood in the most important markets worldwide. The company defines itself as the seafood expert and that is how it operates for its customers who rely on it as a specialized supplier.

Icelandic continued to develop its U.S. operations, launching a production unit in Nanticote, Maryland, through subsidiary Coldwater Seafood Corporation. In 1968 Coldwater moved to a new larger processing plant in Cambridge, Maryland. That plant produced frozen fish sticks, by then already becoming a staple food among American youth. The strong sales of that product led the company to expand the Cambridge plant again in 1973.

Icelandic began extending its network of European operations in the 1980s. In 1981, for example, the company opened a sales and marketing subsidiary in Hamburg, Germany. Two years later, the company's U.K. operations refocused around a new production plant in Grimsby, under the Coldwater Seafood banner. These operations replaced the company's earlier involvement in the fish and chips business.

The company next moved into France in 1988, opening a sales office there. The French sales team also was initially responsible for developing sales and distribution in Spain. The company's strong success in Spain, however, later led Icelandic to form a dedicated subsidiary for that market, which began operations in 1996. By then, Icelandic had expanded its sales even farther abroad, setting up a subsidiary in Tokyo, Japan, in 1989. That subsidiary targeted not only the Japanese market, but the wider Asian markets, focusing on a select range of fish types, including Greenland halibut, redfish, and capelin.

In another expansion move, the company merged its U.K. operations with another Grimsby-based company, Faroe Seafood, in 1995. The merged operation, which continued under the Coldwater name, gave Icelandic three production plants for supplying the U.K. market. Coldwater's operations especially targeted the country's retail sector as a frozen fish supplier for third-party labels. In 1998, the company's U.K. operations were regrouped under a new subsidiary, Icelandic UK.

Icelandic underwent its own transformation in 1996. In that year, the company reincorporated as a limited liability company, shedding its mutual status. The change in structure led to the company's listing on the Iceland Stock Exchange in 1998, under the name Icelandic Group. The listing enabled the company's original fish processing owners to sell off their holdings. With a broader shareholder base, Icelandic discontinued the former purchasing obligations it had maintained during its status as a cooperative company.

Following its public listing, Icelandic initially looked to its domestic rivals for its next growth phase. In 1998, the company launched merger negotiations with rival Iceland Seafood. By 1999, however, the two sides had been unable to reach an agreement, and the proposed merger was abandoned.


Sölumi'stö' hra'frystihúsanna (Icelandic Freezing Plants Corporation) is founded as a mutual company representing the frozen fish production of a number of Icelandic fishing companies.
Icelandic opens its first foreign sales office in the United States.
The company enters the United Kingdom, at first as operator of a chain of fish and chips shops.
A second frozen fish processing plant opens in the United States.
A sales subsidiary is established in Germany.
The company builds a frozen fish processing plant in Grimsby, England.
The company enters the French market with a sales subsidiary, which also develops sales in the Spanish market.
The company opens a sales subsidiary in Tokyo.
A dedicated subsidiary is launched in Spain; the company re-incorporates as a limited liability company.
The company goes public on the Iceland Stock Exchange as Icelandic Group.
Icelandic launches a new strategy for expansion in the fresh and chilled fish categories, and acquires a chilled processing factory in England.
The company acquires Ocean to Ocean and Neptune Fisheries in the United States, and Barogel in France.
The company acquires the Seachill and Cavaghan & Gray fishing operations in the United Kingdom and Comigro Geneco in France and forms a Chinese subsidiary.
The company merges with Blue Ice Group; the company acquires Dalian Three Star in China, Fiskval in Iceland, and Pickenpack H&H in Germany.
The company acquires Saltur A/S in Denmark, adding saltfish operations.


Instead, Icelandic developed a new strategy in line with trends in the consumer markets toward easier-to-prepare and ready-to-eat fresh and chilled food products. Icelandic launched a drive to build up its own fresh and chilled fish capacity.

Acquisitions formed the major part of this effort, starting with the purchase of a chilled fish processing factory in Redditch, England, in 2002. The following year, the company boosted its U.S. presence, acquiring Ocean to Ocean (OTO), a leading importer and distributor of shrimpthe largest chilled seafood category in the United Statesand other shellfish products. Soon after, Icelandic bought Norfolk, Virginia-based Neptune Fisheries, which also specialized in shrimp and shellfish imports. While OTO's focus was, in large part, on the retail market, Neptune targeted primarily the foodservice sector.

Meanwhile, Icelandic had expanded its position in the European shrimp and shellfish market as well, buying up Marseilles-based Barogel in 2003. The following year, the company reinforced its French operations, buying counterpart Comigro Geneco, a Paris-based company that operated in the whitefish market, handling a different set of species from Icelandic.

In the United Kingdom, the company continued to build up its presence in Grimsby, acquiring Seachill and the fish operations of Cavaghan & Gray in 2004. The Cavaghan & Gray acquisition gave the company new facilities in Aberdeen, as well as in Grimsby.

Also in 2004, Icelandic, which had focused most of its growth efforts on the European and U.S. markets, targeted a wider presence in the Asian region. In support of this goal, the company launched a subsidiary in China in that year. The biggest boost for the group's new Asian strategy, however, came in 2005 when the company reached an agreement to merge with Iceland-based Blue Ice Group. Blue Ice had been especially active in the Asian markets, and had succeeded in establishing itself as one of that region's leading fish suppliers. The newly merged group retained the Icelandic name for its operations.

Icelandic then expanded its Asian region presence in November 2005 with the purchase of 97 percent of Dalian Three Star Ltd. in China. Also in that month, the company boosted its European fresh fish operations, acquiring Fiskval, based in Iceland. By the end of that year, the company had successfully boosted the share of fresh and chilled fish to 25 percent of its total sales.

Icelandic maintained its growth by acquisition strategy into 2006. The company ended 2005 with the purchase of Germany's Pickenpack Hussman & Hahn Seafood, the largest producer of frozen fish in that market. Following that acquisition, the company closed down its Hamburg office, in February 2006. By April of that year, Icelandic had spotted a new acquisition opportunity, that of Saltur A/S in Denmark. That purchase gave the company control of two saltfish processing facilities, a new product category for the company. Icelandic Group expected to maintain its strong growth through the end of the decade.


B.I. Shipping Inc. (South Korea); Coldwater Seafood (UK) Ltd.; Dalian Three Star Seafood Co. Ltd. (China); Danberg ehf.; Darybprom DPR (Russia); Ecomsa S.A. (Spain); Fiskval ehf.; Gadus B.V. (The Netherlands); ic Asia Inc. (South Korea); ic China Trading Co. Ltd.; ic France (S.A.S.); ic Germany GmbH; ic Group UK Ltd.; ic Iberica S.A. (Spain); ic Japan K.K.; ic Norway A.S.; ic Services ehf.; ic UK Ltd.; ic USA Inc.; IFP Trading Ltd. (U.K.); Marinus ehf.; OTO L.L.C. (U.S.A.); Samband of (U.S.A.); Seachill Ltd. (U.K.); Sjóvík ehf. (Blue-Ice); Unifish ehf. a.v.


Alpesca S.A; Primlaks Nigeria Ltd.; Antarktika Fishing Co.; Hanwa Company Ltd.; Orkla ASA; Mukorob Fishing Proprietary Ltd.; Aker ASA; Maruha Corporation; China Resources Enterprise Ltd.; Nichirei Corporation.


"Blue Ice Group, Iceland Seafood Merge to Maximize arkets," Quick Frozen Foods International, April 2005, p. 57.

"Fresh Catch: Icelandic USA Inc. Says Its Industry-Leading Seafood Products Bring the Freshness of the Coast of Iceland to Customers Around the World," Food and Drink, March-April 2005, p. 148.

"Icelandic Group Aims for Tilapia Farming and Processing in China," , May 12, 2006.

"Icelandic Group hf Completes Acquisition of Pickenpack Hussmann & Hahn," Nordic Business Report, February 1, 2006.

"Icelandic Group on Way to Recovery," , May 23, 2006.

"Icelandic Group PLC Completes Two Acquisitions," Nordic Business Report, November 30, 2005.

"Merger of Icelandic Group PLC and Blue Chip Ice Group Cleared by Board of Directors," Frozen Food Digest, July 2005, p. 21.

"Northern Sells Off Cavaghan & Gray Unit; Seafood Business Seen Better on Its Own," Quick Frozen Foods International, January 2005, p. 51.