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Fishing for answers at Spain's Pescanova

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 03:07

May 30 - Spain could be about to see one of its largest bankruptcies, when the full extent of fishing company Pescanova's debts come to light. The firm filed for insolvency in April. Joanna Partridge reports from the company's home town of Vigo on the repercussions Pescanova could have far beyond Spain.

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Blessed with a natural harbour, Vigo seems designed for fishing. The city in north-western Spain is a hub for industry. And one of its biggest names is under threat. Pescanova - the world's second largest fish processing firm - filed for insolvency in April - saying it owed 1.5 billion euros. Some experts believe its debts could be double that - which would make it Spain's third-largest bankruptcy. Pescanova was founded in the 1960's. It employs 1500 people in Galicia - and has 10,000 staff worldwide. It has stakes in 89 associated companies around the world. As well as fishing, it runs fish and shrimp farms from Ecuador to Malaysia. Francisco Villar is from the CCOO trade union. He's been involved in negotiations between Pescanova and its auditors. SOUNDBITE: Francisco Villar, Agribusiness representative, CCOO trade union, saying (Spanish): "The problems aren't in the industrial parts of the business, but in the finances. Pescanova got itself into a lot more debt than it should have, and now it doesn't have the means to deal with this debt. For a long time, the chairman hid the real state of the company." Many others also blame Pescanova's former chairman Manuel Fernandez de Sousa, son of the company's founder. He was removed from the helm when the firm filed for insolvency. And he's just been charged with falsifying information and insider trading. He sold half his 14% stake in the firm in the months leading up to the filling. Pescanova declined to comment. But Alfredo Ferrer spoke for many in Vigo. SOUNDBITE: Alfredo Ferrer, Vigo resident, saying (Spanish): "The management are the ones who know about the internal economic questions. In the streets, the firm has a good image and people think they have good products. The first thing people will worry about is their jobs." PTC Water and fishing are vital for this city and this region. And Pescanova's the biggest fish in the industry. But at a time of record unemployment in Spain, even Pescanova's competitors don't want to see it fail. Marfrio is another local fish processing firm. It doesn't work with Pescanova - but is concerned its damaged reputation could affect confidence in the whole industry says sales manager Ramon Abeijon. SOUNDBITE: Ramon Abeijon, Sales Manager, Marfrio, saying (Spanish): "There are firms which are managed in a transparent way, like ours is, which have transparent management, where we do our daily work, where we can access credit from the banks. We make up-to-date payments, we're well thought of. What we're worried about is that the Pescanova case will lead people to generalise, to think all firms are the same, which isn't the case." Pescanova's factory is still operating, and consumers are still eating their products. The thousands of families in Vigo and beyond who depend on the firm may have to wait until August to hear if it will stay afloat and if they'll keep their jobs.

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Fishing for answers at Spain's Pescanova

Thursday, May 30, 2013 - 03:07