June 6, 2018 / 1:30 PM / 2 months ago

Africa's largest fishing firm Oceana could lose fishing rights in Namibia

WINDHOEK, June 6 (Reuters) - Africa’s largest fishing company Oceana Group faces a battle to hold onto its fishing rights in Namibia after the southern African country said listed firms would no longer be awarded quotas.

Bidvest Namibia, which is listed on Namibia’s stock exchange, could also lose its local fishing rights after the policy shift outlined in a government document reviewed by Reuters on Wednesday.

Oceana, which is listed on South African and Namibian exchanges and also operates in Angola and the United States, said it hoped its investments in Namibia would be safe as they were structured to include local shareholders.

Bidvest Namibia’s Chief Executive Officer Sebby Kankondi did not respond to a request for comment.

Fishing is the third-biggest contributor to Namibia’s gross domestic product, after mining and agriculture. It contributes around N$10 billion ($783 million) in foreign-currency earnings annually.

Namibia’s Fisheries Minister Bernhard Esau said the government wanted to bar listed firms from applying for fishing rights because it could not easily monitor whether they were owned by Namibian citizens, as required by law.

“Ownership and hence citizenship in a company listed on a stock exchange changes by the hour, hence this legal requirement cannot be met by listed companies,” Esau said in the government document seen by Reuters.

Zaida Adams, an investor relations executive at Oceana, said the company’s Namibian partners would apply for fishing rights and that therefore the government’s new approach was not a major risk. Bidvest Namibia had already announced plans to exit fishing locally after the government cut its quota three years ago.

The government has set July 31 as the deadline for applications for fishing rights.

Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa in Windhoek and Wendell Roelf in Cape Town; editing by Louise Heavens Editing by Alexander Winning

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