Something fishy

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

Tiger Brands could be in hot water with the Competition Commission again if the authority's studies into the fishing industry unearth collusion. The commission confirmed yesterday that it might launch an investigation into Sea Harvest, a Tiger Brands subsidiary in the fishing industry.

Sea Harvest, a subsidiary of Brimstone Holdings and Oceana (controlled by Tiger Brands), are on the commission's radar for possible collusion in the pelagic (tinned) fish and hake markets.

Nandi Mokoena, manager of strategy at the commission, said: "The collusion has not been investigated, but we have put together a food study of the entire food sector with focus on those sub-sectors that affect lower income groups such as pelagic fish.

"If we find information that warrants investigation, we will (investigate). However, if we find that the collusion occurred more than three years ago we won't continue with the investigation."

Last year Brimstone announced its intention to acquire Tiger Brand's 70percent stake in Sea Harvest for R541million. Brimstone already had 20percent in Sea Harvest. Tiger also owned a dominant 38percent stake in Oceana.

During the Competition Tribunal hearings, it emerged that Sea Harvest employees had complained that there was collusion between the two entities.

Hardin Ratshisusu, a manager at the commission, recommended the acquisition of Sea Harvest from Tiger Brands be approved by the tribunal on the grounds that the shift in shareholding would lessen Tiger's hold on the industry and increase competition.

While the merger was approved, concerns were raised that Brimstone would still have a seat on the board of Oceana while controlling Sea Harvest, leading to openings for information sharing.