Belgium: The world’s fourth richest family earns less

Eugénie Patri Sébastien S.A.(EPS), a Luxembourg-based holding company managing the 24% interest in AB InBev of some of InBev’s Belgian owner families has distributed 834 million euros (USD 948 million) in dividends last year, Bloomberg reported.

In the past five years EPS’ dividends amounted to more than USD 7.5 billion which is about USD 1.5 billion every year or USD 625 million for every percent in the company. The most recent payout which is the smallest since 2014 stems from AB InBev’s lower dividend last year.

While AB InBev paid yearly dividends of EUR 3.60 (between USD 3.80 and USD 4.07) in the years 2015 to 2017, the dividends were slashed half to EUR 1.80 (USD 2.05 in 2018).

In 2019, the Van Damme, de Mévius and de Spoelberch families which are fourth on the list of richest families in the world, had to tighten their belts a little bit more. AB InBev announced in April to revise its proposal to pay a final 2019 dividend of EUR 0.50 per share instead of the planned EUR 1.00 per share (, 14.4.2020). In November 2019 AB InBev already paid an interim dividend of EUR 0.80 per share which added up with the final dividend to a total of EUR 1.30 (USD 1.47) per share for the whole year 2019, compared to the EUR 1.80 of the previous year.

However AB InBev’s lower dividend last year may be of lower concern to the shareholders than AB InBev’s share price. Since the start of 2018, shares of AB InBev, once among Europe’s biggest companies by market value, have lost about half of their value.

EPS is only one part of AB InBev’s complicated shareholder structure which has evolved through several mergers and takeovers in exchange for shares in the company. The Mevius and the Spoelberch families have been involved in the management of the Artois brewery in Leuven since the 14th century. After the secret merger with Piedboeuf from Liège in 1971 and the final creation of Interbrew in 1987, the Van Damme family joined the group.

The Belgian owners have pooled their shares with those of the Brazilian side, which came in through Interbrew’s merger with Brazilan’s leading brewer Ambev in 2004. The joined venture, a foundation organised under the laws of the Netherlands, is known as Stichting Anheuser-Busch InBev which owns together with some other smaller companies of the partners roughly 43 per cent of AB InBev’s shares.

AB InBev’s board of directors also reflects the shareholder structure. It is composed of three independent directors, nine members appointed by the Stichting Anheuser-Busch InBev and three members appointed by the Restricted Shareholders in accordance with the terms of the articles of association. Representatives of the Main Shareholders are Sabine Chalmers, Paul Cornet de Ways Ruart, Grégoire de Spoelberch and Alexandre Van Damme for the Belgian shareholders on the one side and Claudio Garcia, Paulo Alberto Lemann, Cecilia Sicupira and Roberto Thompson for the Brazilian shareholders on the other side.

Representatives of the Restricted Shareholders are Martin J. Barrington and William F. Gifford, which represent Altria, the former owner of the Miller beer brand, and Alejandro Santo Domingo, Chairman of the Board of Bavaria brewery in Colombia, which all joined the group, when AB InBev merged with SABMiller in 2015.

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