Euronav’s bid to resist major shareholder CMB’s attempt to clear out its supervisory board has gained important momentum on Friday.

The Belgian tanker owner said leading independent proxy advisory company Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) is recommending shareholders vote in favour of the board’s recommendations at a crucial meeting on 23 March.

The Saverys family, the owner of CMB, wants all five current directors out and their own five nominees in, plus two from the other major shareholder, Famatown Finance, controlled by tycoon John Fredriksen.

ISS is recommending that the board remains in place and is augmented by John Fredriksen himself and investor Cato Stonex, plus only shipowner Marc Saverys and CMB finance chief Patrick De Brabandere from the CMB side.

With CMB and Fredriksen both controlling 25% of Euronav, the other 50% of votes are vital in the battle for control of the company.

Euronav’s board said it was pleased to receive the support of ISS.

“The backing of ISS further validates our position to maintain the current independent supervisory board and the continuity necessary to foster value creation for all stakeholders, while adapting the supervisory board’s composition to reflect the current shareholding structure of Euronav,” a statement read.

ISS described Euronav’s plan as “an equitable compromise reflective of the current ownership structure”.

The advisory company said a vote against CMB’s agenda is “warranted because CMB has not publicly disclosed a compelling justification for the complete overhaul of the board, and CMB controlling the board is not reflective of CMB’s current 25% shareholding”.

Voting intentions in question

CMB has not objected to Fredriksen’s board nominations. But the Fredriksen group has not indicated which way it is likely to vote.

The tycoon’s tanker company Frontline pulled out of a deal to combine its fleet with Euronav in January after CMB blocked a full legal merger.

This decision is now the subject of arbitration in Belgium, a process that could last between months and years, Euronav has said.

CMB favours decarbonisation and diversification for the company, while Fredriksen is a backer of tanker market consolidation.