Shipping tycoon family fails to prevent Euronav merger plans

Shipping tycoon family fails to prevent Euronav merger plans
Credit: Euronav

During an annual shareholders meeting of Belgian tanker shipping company Euronav, the Saverys Belgian shipping tycoon family failed to elect any of its candidates as director of the company, thereby losing its first battle to prevent a potential merger between the company and Bermudan-registered tanker company Frontline.

If the merger goes ahead, Euronav CEO, Belgian national Hugo De Stoop will become the head of the largest tanker shipping company in the world. A move increasingly necessary, according to Euronav, to lessen dependence on Russian oil and tanker ships in the wake of international sanctions and Europe’s energy transition.

The merger would create a new company with 146 ships and 10% of the world’s ultra-large crude oil carriers, able to transport up to 225 million barrels of oil, roughly equivalent to 100 days of Germany’s oil needs.

Greater capacity, De Stoop says, will increase the company’s ability to meet environmental requirements through digitalisation and economies of scale. Euronav hopes to become zero emissions by 2050 and insists that oil will be necessary to bridge the gap during the global energy transition.

CMB opposed to deal

The Saverys family, whose family members control logistics companies Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), Bocimar, Delphis, ASL Aviation, and Exmar are opposed to the merger. Marc Saverys also controls an 18.5% stake in Euronav and put forward three loyal CMB-controlled director appointees in an attempt to stifle the merger plans.

The three CMB loyalist candidates, Ludovic Saverys (CFO of CMB), Patrick De Brabandere (Director of CMB), and Norwegian banker Bjarte Bøe were soundly defeated by candidates supporting the merger between the two tanker shipping giants.

The proposed CMB candidates were widely unpopular due to the potential “conflict of interest” that would arise from having direct CMB appointees controlling the company.

“If elected to the supervisory board, these candidates would be unable to offer an unbiased opinion on any future scenario for Euronav. They represent the position of a single shareholder (ED note. Marc Saverys) that has publicly voiced its opposition to the announced combination with Frontline,” said de Stoop in a company statement in early May.

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One of the shareholders, international consultancy company ISS, backed the opinion of Euronav’s management that any CMB takeover would be detrimental to shareholders. Three independent board members have instead been elected to the company’s board of directors.

The CMB group, which has controlled the direction of Euronav since 1997, has suggested instead that Euronav should merge with CMB’s hydrogen technology partner CMB tech.

During the boardroom meeting, no Saverys loyalists asked any questions about the merger, instead allowing small shareholders to ask probing questions on their behalf.

This first defeat for the Saverys family is likely just the first exchange in a withdrawn struggle over the future of Euronav. The merger between Euronav and Frontline has yet to be formally approved.

During a future special general meeting, 75% of shareholders must vote in favour of the proposal for it to succeed. Euronav currently controls 18.5% of the company and must rally at least 25% of votes to block the proposal.

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