HALIFAX — A seafood giant that is half-owned by a coalition of East Coast First Nations is reporting a leap in annual sales, as 2022 revenues rose by $71.6 million compared to the year before.
George Paleologou, the chief executive of Premium Brands Holdings Inc., said during the company's fourth-quarter conference call on Thursday that Clearwater Seafood's annual earnings reached a "record-breaking" level of $130 million on $604 million in revenues in 2022.
Much of the gain for Nova Scotia-based Clearwater came in the last three months of the year, as the firm increased sales by $50 million compared to same period the year before, according to results released Thursday by Premium — which is based in Vancouver.
Premium partnered with seven Mi'kmaq communities, led by the Membertou First Nation in Cape Breton and Miawpukek First Nation in Newfoundland and Labrador, to finalize the purchase of Clearwater in January 2021, for a total investment of $1 billion.
Membertou Chief Terry Paul has said the 50 per cent share purchased by the communities was the largest ever investment by Indigenous bands in the Canadian seafood industry.
Clearwater harvests a variety of seafood, including scallops, lobster, clams and crab in Canada, Argentina and the United Kingdom, with sales in 48 countries around the world.
Premium attributed its higher revenues to strong prices for Clearwater's catch and higher sales volumes, noting they might have been even higher except for higher fleet fuel costs and wages.
A spokeswoman for Membertou Development Corporation said the band is pleased with the results.
"We've had a very positive year with Clearwater Seafoods. We're proud of the financial results, and also, the shift the company has made in its 50 per cent Indigenous ownership model," Kelsea MacNeil said in an email.
She said the Mi'kmaq coalition's profits "will be used initially to service the debt on the acquisition of the company."
The Indigenous partners include Membertou, Sipekne'katik, We'koqma'q, Potlotek, Pictou Landing and Paqtnkek communities in Nova Scotia, and Miawpukek, formerly known as Conne River Reserve, in Newfoundland and Labrador.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 17, 2023.
Michael Tutton, The Canadian Press