The Saverys family’s Compagnie Maritime Belge (CMB), which has opposed the merger of tanker majors Euronav and John Fredriksen’s Frontline, has increased its stake in the Belgian company to 14.38%, ahead of Fredriksen’s 10%.
The Euronav brand has been under the control of the Saverys family since 1997, and CMB has been pushing to diversify the tanker player away from its crude oil origins to focus more on other shipping segments and ships powered by green fuels such as hydrogen and ammonia.
The two European giants plan to combine their fleets in an all-share deal to create the continent’s largest tanker firm, in which Fredriksen will hold a leading 22% stake once the deal is approved. The $4.2bn entity would be called Frontline, and be headed by Euronav’s CEO, Hugo De Stoop (pictured).
It would be bad news for all the employees
Alex Saverys, the CEO of CMB, claimed to Splash that the proposed merger, which sees him at odds with the Euronav board, creates no added value.
“We don’t believe that the answer to the ongoing energy transition is to merge two companies that urgently need to reinvent themselves. We don’t need more of the same, we need more focus on decarbonisation,” Saverys said.
Euronav’s De Stoop said he had a lot of respect for the Saverys family, but claimed that Alexander Saverys’ project, which consists of marrying crude oil transportation with the futuristic hydrogen technologies developed by CMB Tech, is an “impossible marriage”. “Our employees have expertise in the field of crude oil transportation, not in the industrial project that the Saverys want to do. If such a marriage is accepted, it would be bad news for all the employees, 220 onshore and about 3,300 seafarers,” he told Belgian daily La Libre.
De Stoop also reflected on the fact that the management was hired by his father, Marc Saverys. “Obviously, the current situation is not likely to improve our relationship, but we’re talking about someone who sold all his shares and got off the board, and we’re being suggested that we’re not loyal? That’s not how business works; you have to have convictions. We are no longer in the feudal era with a lord and his vassal,” he emphasized.
The merger deal put forward earlier this month is based on an exchange ratio of 1.45 Frontline shares for every Euronav share, resulting in Euronav and Frontline shareholders owning approximately 59% and 41%, respectively. The merged company would become the largest owner-operator of crude tanker tonnage, with a combined fleet of 69 VLCCs and 57 suezmax vessels and 20 LR2/aframax vessels.
I imagine they will do everything they can to scuttle the Frontline project
At present, there are three out of five members up for reappointment, and CMB will submit its proposals for the future of Euronav at the next shareholders’ meeting. De Stoop suggested the Saverys would probably vote against the proposed names and come up with their own candidates. “If they do, I imagine they will do everything they can to scuttle the Frontline project. They will have to propose their plan to merge with CMB Tech, which will also require a 75% majority, what I would be saddened by is if we did nothing,” De Stoop remarked.