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Santa Monica Seafood CEO Roger O’Brien: 'We're confident we'll close at least one M&A transaction this year'

California seafood supplier is confident it will close on as many as two M&A transactions in 2019.

Santa Monica Seafood CEO Roger O'Brien forecasts further growth for his company in the coming year. He also foresees the broader seafood industry putting more focus on and investment in large-scale aquaculture projects.

What were the three most significant developments for your seafood business in 2018?

For Santa Monica Seafood, our three highlights for 2018 were: (1) Acquiring Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico, which enabled us to extend our reach into New Mexico and West Texas; (2) opening up a 23,000-square-foot packaging facility in Illinois to extend the reach of our Ethos Seafood pre-packed, chilled seafood division into the Midwest; and (3) the additions made to our management team, the restructuring of our procurement group and the improvements to our production and procurement processes and analytics.

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What changes and developments do you expect your business to undergo next year?

For 2019, Santa Monica Seafood will continue its growth and expansion efforts. We’re confident we’ll close at least one, and hopefully two, M&A transactions with the goal of expanding our distribution reach into three or four new states.

We intend to capitalize on our $6-plus million investment in our Illinois facility as we expand our sales of high-quality, pre-packaged raw, value-added and ready-to-eat seafood products. And, of course, organic growth will always be a constant focus, just as we will always maintain our focus on continuous process improvements throughout our entire operations.

Looking ahead, what will be the three most important seafood industry developments in 2019?

Sourcing and pricing issues for certain species will always be the norm in this industry but, in general, I see a positive economic picture for 2019. Why? Because the US economy is in better shape than it’s been in for over a decade, with no signs of a major recession on the horizon.

The trade/tariff issues with China should be resolved in 2019, as both sides are ripe for a compromise settlement. Also, Brexit appears poised to be resolved in 2019. If so, this will be a major positive for the seafood industry, as it should resolve a lot of present uncertainty.

The other major development I see for 2019 will be an increased focus on, and an increased investment in, large-scale aquaculture projects. A strong aquaculture focus is the right action for this industry if we are to be proactive in addressing our future supply needs.

So, with the economic horizon looking positive and with the industry properly focused on confronting future supply issues, 2019 should be a very good year for the seafood industry.

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