Cornwall’s oldest fishing business reels in new fleet following HSBC UK funding

A national fish processor in Cornwall has acquired a majority stake in one of Europe’s largest beam trawl fleets after securing a multi-million finance package from HSBC UK.

Vistgate Ltd, which trades as Ocean Fish, has used the funding to acquire Newlyn Fish Market auctioneers, W Stevenson and Sons Ltd, marking a significant step towards a dynamic improvement of the supply and catch sector.

Ocean Fish is Cornwall’s oldest fishing and processing import-export business, supplying large UK and European retail and wholesale customers. The deal takes Ocean Fish’s fleet of fishing vessels to 19 and helps protect Cornwall’s historic fishing industry, including the future of Newlyn Fish Market which continues to grow and modernise.

Ocean Fish is owned by the Lakeman family which has a fishing heritage dating back to 1740.

Leigh Genge, Managing Director of Ocean Fish, said: “The Lakeman and Stevenson families both hold very similar views on the importance of maintaining a vibrant and prosperous fishing industry in Cornwall.  The support from HSBC UK, and in particular our relationship director Martin Rowe, has helped us achieve a long-held ambition to bring both families together to deliver this goal.”

Peter Aylott, CEO of W Stevenson and Sons, added: “Our business is an historic and fundamental part of the Cornish fishing industry and the investment from Ocean Fish signals an exciting future for the largest beam trawler fleet in the United Kingdom, as well the prosperity of Newlyn as a UK fishing community.  We look forward to working with Ocean Fish to generate a unique organisation which brings together two of Cornwall’s proudest catching and trading companies.”

James Jordan, HSBC UK’s head of corporate banking in the South West, commented: “We’ve been working closely with Ocean Fish for a number of years so we are delighted to support the business as it takes its next steps; steps which will have a significant impact on the Cornish fishing industry, people’s livelihoods and its own bottom line. HSBC UK is committed to helping businesses of all sizes across the South West realise their ambitions and Ocean Fish is no exception. We look forward to seeing the Cornish finishing industry continue to thrive following this significant deal.”

Vistgate was also supported throughout the transaction by Michelmores LLP and KPMG. W Stevenson and Sons was supported by Foot Anstey and FRP Advisor, as well as RBS which refinanced existing debt.