PARIS. Part de Fondateur. green, black. #100000. No 17397. Central fold. A sensational piece: a founder share of the Suez Canal! At the end of the 18th century during his stay in Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte contemplated the construction of a canal to join the Mediterranean and Red Seas. However, the project was abandoned after a first survey erroneously concluded that the Red Sea was 10 meters higher than the Mediterranean, making a giant locks-based canal much too expensive and taking very long to construct. It would be more than 50 years before Ferdinand deLesseps, a former French diplomat, obtained a concession from his friend, Said, the Turkish viceroy of Egypt, to form a company to construct a maritime canal open to ships of all nations. The Compagnie Universelle du Canal Maritime de Suez was formed on December 5, 1858 with a capital of 200 million francs (£8 million), divided in 400.000 shares of 500 francs (£20) each. The company was to operate the canal by leasing the relevant land, for 99 years from its opening, for navigation. From the beginning it encountered many problems. The subscription of the shares was not a real success, as only 286.000 of the shares were taken up, mainly by small French investors. None of the shares reserved for subscription in Britain, United States, Austria and Russia were taken up and the company was still short of 80 million francs capital. Fortunately, de Lesseps could count once again on his good friend, viceroy Said, who invested 85 million francs. The project was clearly obstructed by the British who recognized the canal as an import trade route (the shortest route to India) and perceived it as a direct menace to their geopolitical and financial interests. This was especially true of Prime Minister Palmerston who started a hate campaignagainst the company which, after the death of Said, resulted in an ultimatum to the company: it had to give up land, indispensably needed for its expansion, and had to reduce the labour force from 20.000 to 6000 workers. However, thanks to the arbitration of the French Emperor in 1864 the company was able to keep the indispensable land, and French ingenuity soon replaced the forced labour by machines. After the death of Palmerston in 1865, there was a turnaround in the British public opinionand even the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, recognized Palmerston's wrong judgement. Eventually in 1875, the British joined the board of directors by taking over the 44% stake of Said's heavily indebted successor and finally in 1882 they even took control. As soon as the political problems were solved, the company started to run out of money due to expensive mechanisation of the manual work. As a consequence, a loan issue of 100 million francs followed in 1867. In an atmosphere of big celebrations (for which Verdi composed Aida), the canal finally opened to traffic on November 17, 1869. Its final cost was more than double the original estimate. Fortunately, the return was high. The canal had an immediate and dramatic effect on worldtrade. Combined with the American Transcontinental Railroad completed six months earlier, it allowed the entire world to be circled in record time. By 1955 approximately two-thirds of Europe's oil passed through the canal. About 7.5% of world sea tradeis carried via the canal today. In 1956, the company was nationalised by Egypt. The company itself remained in business as Suez, a major industrial conglomerate. The share we offer is a founder's certificate facsimile signed by the "Président du Conseil d'Administration" (Chairman of the Board in today's vocabulary): Auguste-Louis-Albéric, prince d'Arenberg. Initially there were only 100 founder certificates. But after two decisions of the Board (the last in 1877) they were divided by 1000. As a consequence the owner of this piece was entitled to 1/100,000 of the 10% of the net profit that was reserved for the founders. One of the top pieces in this auction. Rarity 10.
Startprice: € 5000