New Zealand's biggest seafood companies - Sanford and Sealord Group - have joined forces to buy Tauranga-based North Island Mussel Processors Ltd (NIMPL) from its receivers, McGrathNicol.

The acquisition, the price of which was not disclosed, means 20 full time and 200 casual workers will keep their jobs, Sanford and Sealord said in a joint statement.

The new owners will work with the receivers and existing NIMPL staff to ensure the processing facility is up and running prior to the start of this season's harvest, the companies said.

Sealord chief executive Graham Stuart said buying the facility was important in continuing the development of the Coromandel mussel industry.


Sanford managing director Eric Barratt said the new partnership would include the mussel farming businesses of the two companies as well as NIMPL's processing operation.

The processing plant in Tauranga was the first in the world to operate an automated mussel-opening machine as part of a $23 million investment to expand the facility in 2009.

Sanford and Sealord have each taken a 50 per cent shareholding in a new company - North Island Mussels - which will own the Tauranga plant and the Coromandel farming operations.

Shares in Sanford last traded $4.25, unchanged. Unlisted Sealord is jointly owned by Maori tribal interests and Japan's Nippon Suisan.