Uncertainty about plans for Frisian investor at Eelde airport


Although the deal between the municipality of Groningen and FB Oranjewoud has been concluded, one of the other shareholders raised his finger last week. Liveable Tynaarlo would have liked it better if Tynaarlo, or one of the other shareholders, had bought the shares of the municipality of Groningen. Because suppose the airport is closed down, then the land as a residential construction site is worth gold. The other shareholders are the provinces of Drenthe and Groningen and the municipalities of Assen and Tynaarlo.

Frisian involvement

The fact that the shares were sold to the Frisian foundation came as a surprise to many. Because for the first time, the Frisians become financially involved with the airport and, moreover, never before was a private party (co-) owner of Eelde airport.

The municipality of Groningen was happy to get rid of the shares. She wanted it since 2017. The city does not see keeping an airport afloat as a municipal task. Let the provinces do that, she thinks.

FB Oranjewoud fits perfectly with the perspective of the airport as a northern airport “

Leendert Klaassen, RvC Groningen Airport Eelde

The airport itself also welcomed the transaction. Support from the entrepreneurial side is of great importance, reacted chairman Leendert Klaassen of the Supervisory Board of Groningen Airport Eelde.

“FB Oranjewoud is a foundation that stands up for the social, economic and social development of the Northern Netherlands. This makes it perfectly in line with the airport’s perspective as a northern airport,” said Klaassen in the Dagblad van het Noorden.

But the share transfer raises questions. Because it is unclear what the foundation wants with the airport. FB Oranjewoud has already announced that it does not want to contribute to the investment plans that exist. So at the moment at least the airport is not getting along too much.

FB wants to boost the Frisian economy

What exactly is FB Oranjewoud for an organization? It is a foundation that manages the legacy of the sale of Friesland Bank. That bank came into the hands of Rabobank in 2012, which in exchange for ownership gave 126 million euros to the Friesland Bank Foundation, which was later renamed FB Oranjewoud. The aim of the foundation is to promote the social, economic and cultural climate in the Northern Netherlands.

Although FB refers to Oranjewoud, which resides in a villa in the leafy Oranjewoud, in the Northern Netherlands as a working area, it primarily shows Frisian through and through. FB stands for Frysl├ón Boppe and on its website FB Oranjewoud says it wants to promote the Frisian economy and identity. ‘Tsjoch op’ is the motto of the foundation, two words from the first sentence of the Frisian national anthem. Frysk blood choch on: Friesian blood, get moving.

You could conclude that FB Oranjewoud sees the participation in Groningen Airport Eelde as a way to advance the Frisian province. This is in contrast to Frisian politics, which although supported the lobby for the airport, but never wanted to pay for it.

FB Oranjewoud supports a typical Frisian sport like bouncing, helps Frisian companies with export plans and stimulates all kinds of cultural initiatives. The organization also participates in ten companies, one of which is Groningen, windmill builder Steg in Hoogezand.

Financial figures unknown

One of the most important participations is in the NDC Mediagroep publishing group, a mixed Frisian-Groningen company and publisher of, among others, the Dagblad van het Noorden and the Leeuwarder Courant. FB Oranjewoud owns 82 percent of the shares.

Like NDC, Groningen Airport Eelde also benefits from a financially strong party as a shareholder. NDC and GAE are in a bad financial condition, they are losing money and to keep them afloat or to make investments they need money from others. In the first place, that will be the shareholders, because no bank will now put money into these organizations. But how FB Oranjewoud is financially is as unclear as what FB Oranjewoud’s plans for the airport are. The foundation does not disclose financial figures.

Heavy losses

They do belong to the subsidiary FB Oranjewoud holding. The annual figures show that this daughter suffered heavy losses. In 2018 it was a net loss of fifteen million euros and in 2017 the loss amounted to eight million. In 2016 there was just under a quarter of a million. Results for 2019 are not yet known. In addition, the equity of FB Oranjewoud is negative (-7.5 million euros). The holding also relies heavily on borrowed money, with a total debt of EUR 94 million.

Looking at the figures, the holding company is a sorely distressed and barely viable company. According to a consulted financial specialist and a professor (names known to the editors), it is quite possible that the activities of the holding are financed by the foundation.

No annual accounts and profit or loss figures are published for FB Oranjewoud Participaties, the private limited company that bought the shares in Groningen Airport Eelde. It is clear, however, that this part, like the holding company, with a debt of over 50 million euros, relies heavily on borrowed money.

In greenhouse

How much money the parent company Stichting FB Oranjewoud has in cash to keep the subsidiaries afloat will not be announced. Chairman Jorrit Volkers of FB Oranjewoud does not want to answer any questions about the financial situation.

In a written response, FB Oranjewoud states: “It is FB Oranjewoud’s policy to have the participating interests make statements about their performance or not to provide further information about the financial performance of FBO itself or its subsidiary or holding companies. ”

It is therefore impossible to say what remains of the original 126 million euros eight years after the establishment of FB Oranjewoud.

Pull the wallet

FB Oranjewoud makes money with the participations in the companies. They can pay dividends and interest income will come in through loans that FB Oranjewoud provides to the companies in which it participates.

On the other hand, FB Oranjewoud has to pull the wallet at companies that are not doing so well. This is the case, for example, with the heavily loss-making participation in NDC that is supported by millions by FB Oranjewoud.

It is up to the municipality of Groningen to decide what happens to the shares “

Spokesperson, Province of Drenthe

Absolute confidence

The other shareholders, the provinces of Groningen and Drenthe and the municipalities of Assen and Tynaarlo, as well as the airport itself, have not conducted any research into the finances of the new shareholder. The province of Drenthe says it has taken note of the transfer of shares. And that’s it. “It is up to the municipality of Groningen to decide what happens to the shares,” says a spokesman for the province of Drenthe.

The airport management says ‘not to be a party’ in that regard. Chairman Leendert Klaassen of the Supervisory Board of Groningen Airport Eelde says he has no insight into it. Rijzebol, a Deputy from Groningen, says he has ‘absolute confidence’ in FB Oranjewoud.

So the shareholders are immediately at the table with a party that they do not know about financially, while millions are needed to keep the airport afloat alone. They are also in the dark about FB Oranjewoud’s plans for the airport. In addition, the new GAE shareholder certainly does not want to invest in the airport yet. The existing plans must be paid by the other shareholders.

Shareholders currently do not want to respond to the questions that Leefbaar Tynaarlo has asked about the transfer of shares to FB Oranjewoud. FB Oranjewoud has been asked for a response several times. But the company says it does not want to respond.

Liveable Tynaarlo has once again asked the College of Tynaarlo questions about the sale of shares in the airport to FB Oranjewoud. The party wonders if there is no state aid. FB Oranjewoud takes over the shares for one euro, while the value of the land and buildings runs into millions.

Group chairman Jurryt Vellinga of Leefbaar Tynaarlo wonders whether European rules on state aid have been correctly applied. In addition, the question is whether the municipality of Groningen has tested the transaction against European state aid law. If not, according to the party, this should still be done.

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