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Euronav founder opposes Frontline merger

Frontline founder and tanker billionaire John Fredriksen to emerge as largest shareholder in combined tanker giant

Largest Euronav shareholder says deal “won’t create added value for Euronav stakeholders”

EURONAV founder and largest shareholder Compagnie Maritime Belge says it opposes the merger with Frontline, announced yesterday.

“CMB questions the current strategy of Euronav, which focuses solely on the transportation of crude oil in a world where decarbonisation is of paramount importance,” the Antwerp-based company said in a statement released today. 

“CMB does not believe a combination with Frontline will create added value for Euronav’s stakeholders”.

Euronav and Frontline said yesterday that the companies’ boards had unanimously agreed to a term sheet signed to merge the two companies, creating the world’s largest tanker owner worth $4.2bn. 

Hugo de Stoop, Euronav chief executive, who would be running the combined shipowner, said he hoped the transaction would be completed by the end of the third quarter of 2022.

Frontline founder John Fredriksen will emerge as the largest shareholder of the merged Frontline/Euronav tanker giant, with a holding of 22% in the deal, which sees 1.45 Frontline shares for every Euronav share. The Saverys’ stake would be 7%.

Euronav shareholders would have a 59% stake and Frontline 41% with the entity continuing as Frontline. 

CMB, through its Saverco investment holding, built up a leading 13.23% stake in Euronav over the past six months, after it emerged that the 77-year-old Norwegian-born tanker billionaire had become the largest shareholder in the final half of 2021.

Saverco, in which Saverys brothers Michael, Ludovic and Alexander hold interests, spent more than $176m over 2022 until April 4 increasing its stake in Euronav, filings show.

The Saverys family surpassed Mr Frederiksen, whose Hemen Holdings had a 9% stake in Euronav via CK Ltd. Hemen Holdings also has a 39% share in Frontline.

CMB’s opposition adds fresh drama in the battle to control Euronav, which the Saverys family founded 30 years ago. 

The family sold their stake in the business in early 2020, before re-engaging once Mr Fredriksen began buying shares nearly two years later.

CMB said it wanted Euronav to diversify and decarbonise.

“CMB had various contacts with Euronav’s supervisory board and management and made proposals to change its current strategy,” the statement said. 

“The strategy proposed by CMB is to gradually diversify Euronav’s fleet away from pure crude oil transportation and focus on decarbonisation. 

“The exclusive focus on fossil fuels and the geopolitical risks associated with the business can put the future of the company in jeopardy. 

“CMB would like to transform Euronav into a Europe-based marine and industrial clean-tech powerhouse with a diversified fleet. The proceeds of Euronav’s current business should be reinvested in green hydrogen and ammonia ships and applications, and new type of vessels that carry the fuels of the future.”

Privately held CMB has a fleet of some 147 vessels, including bulk carriers via its Bocimar subsidiary and containerships via Delphis.

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