John Fredriksen’s pursuit of Euronav is over. The Norwegian tanker magnate’s tanker firm, Frontline, on Monday announced it will no longer seek a combination with Euronav, ending one of the most high-profile shipping merger sagas in history. Fredriksen had been building up his stake in Antwerp-based Euronav for 15 months and found himself in confrontation with the Saverys family for control of the Belgian tanker giant. Both boards of Frontline and Euronav had approved a combination last summer, but a full merger proved impossible as the Saverys’ built up a large enough stake to block the deal.
Lars Barstad, CEO of Frontline, said: “We regret that we could not complete the merger as envisaged in July 2022, as that would have created the by far largest publicly listed tanker company. At the same time, both companies have independently very large fleets of crude oil and product tankers and are already enjoying economies of scale as evidenced by our respective recent financial reports. Frontline will with its efficient operations continue to capture value as this cycle unfolds and remain focused on maximizing dividend capacity per share.”
With Fredriksen now walking away from the deal, there is a potentially awkward reckoning for the current top management at Euronav, all of whom strongly backed the merger. The Saverys family have outlined their vision for Euronav, which involves getting the tanker company far more involved in alternative forms of energy. Euronav responded this morning to the Frontline announcement, saying it will examine the letter, and that it “reserves all rights and actions. Regardless of the combination taking place, the supportive and sustainable fundamental factors of the tanker markets have started to deliver (during Q3 and Q4 2022) what Euronav and most sector commentators believe will be a prolonged upcycle. Such favorable conditions coupled to Euronav’s strong balance sheet, best-in-class operating system with the most developed sustainability platform in the sector positions our company well for the future,” Euronav maintained.
Omar Nokta, an equities analyst with Jefferies, suggested Euronav shares will likely see some near-term pressure as the market processes what’s next for the company. Frontline shares are poised for a “major rally” and re-valuation, Nokta predicted. Euronav’s share price dropped dramatically by 19% in early trading today in Brussels while Frontline’s shares were halted in Oslo.