Alexander Saverys believes the battle lines are clear in the fight to control Belgian tanker owner Euronav.

He is seeking shareholders’ support to oust the board of tanker company.

Saverys is adopting that stance after the board rejected a plan by Euronav’s majority shareholder to take the tanker company down the decarbonisation route.

“The choice will be very clear,” the CMB chief executive told TradeWinds.

“Either you choose for the old world, or you choose for the new world, which is the plan we would like to present to the shareholders.”

“We have had discussions with board and management – but they clearly said no - because they didn’t believe this would be something that works for them,” Saverys said.

The motive for Euronav’s dismissal was revealed on Thursday when the company revealed plans to merge with John Fredriksen’s Frontline.

That pits the Saverys family plans against those of the 77-year-old Norwegian born tanker billionaire who is aligned with the Euronav management and board.

Alternative plan

Under an alternative plan, CMB would seek to combine Euronav with its clean technology division CMB.Tech.

“Merging oil with more oil in times when every fossil fuel company needs to decarbonise, we don’t think this will add any value,” Saverys said.

Euronav and Frontline were already very sizeable companies that were not investing much in environmental, social and governance (ESG), he added.

“We think that — like so many other companies — that this company [Euronav] needs to transform itself.”

While Euronav tankers would continue to transport crude oil for the coming years, proceeds should be reinvested into clean technology, he suggested.

To achieve its goals, the CMB shareholders will take a shot at dislodging the board of Euronav, headed by chief executive Hugo De Stoop.

“Unfortunately as long as we have a board that doesn’t play ball, our first task will be to change the board,” Saverys said.

Euronav’s Hugo De Stoop head the board that CMB’s Alexander Saverys says ‘doesn’t play ball’. Photo: Euronav

“And once we have a board that will discuss the steps, then we can present the transaction that we have in mind on cleantech and CMB.Tech.

“We have an alternative plan, and we can present that alternative plan as soon as we have a counterpart that is willing at least to contemplate it.”

That means convincing other shareholders and points to a crunch AGM meeting on 19 May.

The Euronav/Frontline project would result in a company with a market capitalisation of more than $4.2bn, with a fleet of 69 VLCCs and 57 suezmaxes, plus 20 LR2/aframaxes.

But Saverys believes it is credible that other shareholders will rally to the family’s decarbonisation cause.

“We have a strong Belgian shareholding base, which has a more long term view than some US companies that just use Euronav as a proxy for trading oil.

“Hence that stock has never really traded to the true value of the company.”

Anchor shareholding

The Saverys clan has been snapping up stock in New York and Brussels-listed Euronav since September.

They are currently the largest shareholder with a 13.22% stake through CMB and holding company Saverco.

Fredriksen currently has 10%, but would be the biggest single investor in any new combined entity.

“We want to have this anchor shareholding as a family in Euronav,” Saverys said.

“We want to turn the tankers from a 100% fossil fuel company into a fantastic, innovative cleantech platform.

“So instead of going to a Spac, this is a much better deal. This is a company we know inside and out.

“Then there are different views, people that believe fossil fuels will be around for the next 30 year and that’s a good value proposition.”

The Saverys family have previously supported consolidation moves involving Euronav, which was founded by CMB and spun off into a separate company in 2004.

That included backing for the acquisition of the VLCC fleet from Maersk Tankers in 2013 as well as the merger with Gener8 Maritime in 2018.

Commenting earlier on the proposed merger between Euronav and Frontline, John Fredriksen said: “A combination of Frontline and Euronav would establish a market leader in the tanker market and position the combined group for continued shareholder value creation in addition to significant synergies.

“The new Frontline would be able to offer value-enhancing services for our customers and increase fleet utilisation and revenues which would benefit all stakeholders. I am very excited and give my full support and commitment to this combined platform.”