* State stake raised to above 59 pct
* Shareholders still to vote on sale of fish feed arm
(Updates size of state stake, background, share prices)
By Gwladys Fouche and Victoria Klesty
OSLO, June 25 The Norwegian state has spent 1.56
billion crowns ($254 million) on increasing its stake in fish
farmer Cermaq to nearly 60 percent, just days after
fending off a $1.7-billion hostile bid by its bigger local rival
Norway bought a total of 14.46 million shares at 108 crowns
per share, lifting its stake to 59.17 percent from 43.5 percent,
it said in a statement.
On Friday Marine Harvest, controlled by the country's
estranged shipping tycoon John Fredriksen, dropped its cash-and
shares offer worth around 104 crowns per share, after failing to
win acceptances from the minimum 33.4 percent of shareholders
which it required.
It also said it had sold 3.33 million shares in Cermaq at an
average price of 105.33 crowns, leaving it with a stake of 1.84
Two weeks ago the country's trade and industry minister
sought parliament's authority to either raise the state's stake
to up to 65 percent or cut it to zero as it considered the bid
by Marine Harvest.
Meanwhile Cermaq still has plans hatched during the bid
battle to sell its biggest unit, the EWOS fishmeal business, to
private equity firms Bain and Altor for $1.1 billion, subject to
shareholder approval at a July 11 meeting.
Marine Harvest, already the world's biggest fish farmer,
wanted to buy Cermaq to consolidate the Norwegian industry as
global demand rises, but ran into stiff opposition, particularly
from the Norwegian state.
Oslo-born Fredriksen, estimated to be worth over $11 billion
by Forbes magazine, has long antagonised the authorities in his
home country, especially since he gave up his Norwegian
citizenship for a Cypriot passport to escape high taxes.
Last year Fredriksen announced plans to move the management
of his oil drilling company Seadrill out of Norway,
further raising tensions with the centre-left government
Shares in Cermaq were trading up 1.95 percent at 104.50
crowns on Tuesday, while shares in Marine Harvest were up 2
percent at 5.87 crowns.
($1=6.1454 Norwegian crowns)
(Editing by Greg Mahlich)