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By Fili Sagapolutele

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (December 29, 2000 - PIDP/CPIS)--COS Samoa Packing’s mother company is now solely owned by Thai Union International of Bangkok, Thailand, which bought out its two partners, Tri-Marine International of San Pedro, California and Edmund Gann, a San Diego-based owner-operator of a tuna-fishing fleet.

The sale for $38.5 million was announced Tuesday in San Diego.

Each of the sell-out partners owned about 25 percent of Chicken of the Sea International while Thai Union owned the other 50 percent. The buy-out will give Thai Union 100 percent ownership of the company.

COS Samoa Packing general manager Herman Gebauer said the change in ownership will not have an immediate impact on the local cannery. However, he pointed out that it is hard to tell at this time what effect the buy-out will have on the cannery in the long run.

The company is one of two canneries and the second largest private employer in the territory, employing more than 2,500 workers. The majority of the workforce comes from nearby independent Samoa.

StarKist Samoa is the largest private employer with a workforce of more than 3,100.

The Samoa Packing workforce has not been officially informed about its new owners because employees are on a three-week break. Production will resume January 8th.

The territorial government is keeping a close eye on the transaction but has declined to comment on the sale.

Partners since 1996 in the canned tuna business, Thai Union, Tri-Marine and Gann purchased the assets of Van Camp Seafood Co., Inc. in 1997, which included the "Chicken of the Sea" brand of tuna.

"We are thankful to Tri-Marine and Edmund Gann for the wonderful and gratifying experience we have enjoyed since becoming partners with them in Chicken of Sea," said Thai Union president Thiraphong Chansiri in a press release.

According to the company’s press release, Chicken of the Sea "presently has a 17.6 share of the U.S. retail canned (tuna) market."

COS Samoa Packing started out in 1956 as one of Van Camp Seafood Company’s canneries. Samoa Packing has since gone through four separate ownerships but this is the first time it has become the property of a foreign company.

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