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Darden to invest in Sabah lobster park

November 6, 2012

By Azli Jamil

KUALA LUMPUR: US-based full service restaurant company Darden Restaurants Inc will invest about US$300 million (RM921 million) in an integrated lobster aquaculture park in Sabah, targeted to start commercial production in the next two years.

The aquaculture park is also expected to see about the same amount of investment from contract farmers, Darden Aquafarm Inc president Bill Herzig told reporters here yesterday.

All these investments bode well for Sabah where the project will generate about RM3 billion revenue and 20,000 new jobs by 2030.

“Global market for lobsters is estimated to be RM12 billion a year and China accounts for 75% of the total market. This translates into vast opportunities for Malaysia and Sabah in particular, in becoming a major player in meeting demand for lobsters,” Sabah Chief Minister Musa Aman said in his speech at a ceremony for the park’s formal agreements.

“It is like an industrial park for lobster production,” said newly formed seafood company Ever Nexus Sdn Bhd (ENSB) managing director Shahridan Faiez, adding that viable lobster production will be in 18-24 months.

ENSB is the holding company of Ever Nexus Sustainable Seafood Sdn Bhd, the joint-venture (JV) partner for the lobster park.

The “contract farmers” have to source for their own capital either from government grants or privately, and have the assurance of a guaranteed buyback scheme. The collaboration project is between Darden Restaurants, ENSB and the state of Sabah through its Yayasan Sabah foundation.

As part of its investment, Darden, in its first venture outside the US, plans to establish a regional operations hub in Kuala Lumpur to assist with potential future restaurant growth in the Asia-Pacific region.

The lobster farm, claimed as the world’s first integrated lobster aquaculture park, will comprise three hatcheries, supporting infrastructures, processing plants, sea space for “contract farmers” and marketing entities. It will be managed by Lobster Aqua Technologies Sdn Bhd, a JV between Nanyang Nexus Sdn Bhd (JV between Darden and ENSB) and Yayasan Sabah’s subsidiary, Inno Fisheries Sdn Bhd.

All parties were mum about the equity ownership for all the companies involved with this JV.

Shahridan used to be the CEO of seafood producing company Blue Archipelago Bhd, a subsidiary of Khazanah Nasional Bhd. Nonetheless, Shahridan denied any Khazanah involvement with this venture.

This content is provided by FMT content partner The Malaysian Reserve.

Photo: Herzig (second from left) exchanging documents with Yayasan Sabah Group Fisheries and Food Industries group manager Watie Ambu. Looking on are (back left) Darden Restaurants CEO Clarence Otis Jr, Innoprise Corp Sdn Bhd executive chairman Khalil Jamalul (hidden), Musa and Ever Nexus chairman Rizal Faris at the signing ceremony in Kuala Lumpur.


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