The Saverys, a shipowning family, are sailing in the middle of a storm

The Saverys family wants to take over the helm of “their baby”, the oil transport company Euronav, in order to realize their hydrogen ambitions. This slingshot is the umpteenth blow from a family that has multiplied them over the decades to build their empire. His last bet is far from won.

The Belgica building on the Gerlachekaai in Antwerp impresses with its majesty and history. It houses the headquarters of three shipping companies, all founded by the Saverys family. The instructions of two of them Euronav and CMB are now in dispute. The challenge: the future of Euronav. The management of the oil company wants to merge its company with the Norwegian competitor Frontline. The management of the CMB, which has remained in the hands of the family, opposes this. And to prevent the operation, the Saverys have amassed shares in Euronav over the past few months, so they now hold 14% of the capital. You have thus become the largest shareholder.

Analysts welcome the merger. she will give birth the largest independent oil transport company in the world, with a fleet of 115 supertankers. The transaction will reduce costs and thereby create value for shareholders. The merged group will be able to better meet the needs of ever-growing customers – traders and oil companies – but also more effectively deal with the immense environmental challenges of maritime transportation.

Alexander Saverys, Patron of the CMB.
© BELGA

However, Alexander Saverys, the CEO of CMB, has other projects for “his company” – “Euronav is our baby”, he announces. He wants to gradually convert the Euronav tankers into a navigable fleet transport the new green fuels ammonia and hydrogen. Finally, he wants to involve his subsidiary CMB-Tech, which specializes in large-scale hydrogen projects, in order to invest heavily in the greening of maritime transport. Put an end to the oil.

Alexander Saverys has spoken about this on several occasions, both with Hugo De Stoop and with Frontline’s owner, John Fredriksen, Euronav’s second largest shareholder (10% of the capital). but they didn’t take the bait. At the next general meeting of Euronav, Saverys wants to get a seat on the supervisory board to present his plans in detail.

convince shareholders

“It will not be easy for him to convince shareholders that his plan is better than Euronav’s,” said a source familiar with the matter. “CMB boss Alexander Saverys can claim he sees Euronav as ‘his’ company for which he is considering other plans,” a source who has worked in international maritime transport for years tells us, “but Euronav remains an independent public company. The works council unanimously approved the merger. His boss, Hugo De Stoop, who will become CEO of the merged group, didn’t pull this operation out of a hat. He did a good job. He is not announcing this merger without ensuring he has the support of the Board of Directors and a majority of shareholders.”



“Calling Euronav a ‘big polluter’ and describing the merger as an operation that ‘adds oil to more oil’, as Alexander Saverys suggests, is incorrect.”

“Calling Euronav a ‘big polluter’ and describing the merger as an operation that ‘adds oil to more oil’, as Alexander Saverys suggests, is incorrect, according to this source, who prefers to remain anonymous. It is not just a merger of two oil transport companies whose only ambition is to increase the volume transported, Hugo De Stoop knows very well that his activity – oil transport – will come to an end in the long term, in 30 or 40 years, of course If he can’t explain overnight: I’ll stop transporting him. In the meantime, he wants to make these activities greener over the next few years.”

Alexander Saverys makes no secret that his alternative plan for Euronav aims to do just that to realize its ambitions for CMB in the field of hydrogen. “But what prevents Alexander from implementing his plans and relying on Bochem and his own chemical transport ships?” asks an expert. “Ammonia and hydrogen are gases, while Euronav transports oil. With Bochem he can transport liquid methanol. He might be better off bidding on his uncle Nicolas’ Exmar gas transportation company. The latter specializes in this type of transport. But that obviously won’t happen given the rivalry between Marc (Alexander’s father) and his brother Nicolas, who controls Exmar.”

Poisonous

Euronav boss Hugo De Stoop regrets that Alexander Saverys is suggesting Belgium would lose one of the family jewels in the merger. “Selling Euronav in favor of the Vikings is not a good idea,” said the young Saverys last weekend. He alluded to John Fredriksen receiving 20% ​​of the capital of the newly merged group. “The existing shareholders will remain shareholders in the new company,” replies Hugo De Stoop.

Hugo DeStoop, CEO of Euronav.
©katrijn van giel

Hugo De Stoop thinks a marriage that would link an oil transport company and CMB’s “futuristic” projects in hydrogen technologies is lame. “I wouldn’t want anything better than Alexander to implement his plans in this area. But merging their activities with ours would be toxic. Both for workers and seafarers and for shareholders. CMB.Tech remains a start-up that doesn’t make any money yet.”

Some also think that the environmentally conscious credo of the CMB boss should be put into perspective. “Alexander is not an offshoot of Greenpeace. Two years ago, CMB was still being sued for illegal ship wrecking in Bangladesh. Fortunately, the company won the case.”

To achieve his goals, Alexander Saverys continued to expand his position in the capital of Euronav. And at the same time as this increase in power, he will mobilize the entire family network – with his brothers Ludovic and Michaël, without forgetting their father Marc, the patriarch who still has a word about CMB’s strategy – to block the merger of his eternal rival Fredriksen.

Virginie Saverys.
©Cedric Gerbehaye

And the Network is extensive. In international shipping, the Saverys family is known for their entrepreneurial spirit, decades of experience in the industry, speed of closing deals, willingness to take risks and ability to capitalize on new trends. By always relying on his long-term vision. The family often thinks three or four moves ahead. Like a chess master.

Worthy representative of the seventh Saverys generation, Alexander understood the need for shipping to embark on a sustainable path. For example, CMB recently acquired a huge piece of land in Namibia to build a solar park and a hydrogen and ammonia plant. He wants to transport the green electricity produced there to Europe by ship. However, this CMB.Tech project needs significant capital to reach cruising speed.

Basilica Aloy.
©SISKA VANDECASTEELE

Could Alexander reach out to the other family members for funding? The odds are bad.

Her aunt Virginie has long retired to Tuscany, where she manages the renowned Avignonesi winery. Six years ago she bought her fleet of six bulk carriers, EBE, a “small” business that she entrusted to her son, Basile Aloy.

As for his uncle Nicolas Saverys, he has other fish to fry at Exmarwhose prospects are promising again thanks to the rise in gas prices.

Nicholas Saverys.
©Diego Franssens

At Euronav’s general meeting in May, the extension of the terms of office of three of the five directors will be on the agenda. The Saverys will try to get their nominees on the council. Next they will try to block the Frontline project and enforce their merger plan with CMB.Tech. But, to do so, they must obtain a majority of 75% of the votes.

Hugo De Stoop warns shareholders: If they decide to marry CMB.Tech, they can tick their dividends. But he is not worried: “We know that the vast majority of shareholders support our project.”

“It promises rough seas for Euronav,” remarked a member of the Saverys family this week.

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