BRUSSEL. STATUTEN. In this and the following lots, we offer an amazing collection of scripophily and closely related publications of a company which was in many ways pivotal for the economic (r)evolution in, and modernization, of Belgium. For many decades, its CEOs -not accidently called ‘governors’ - were more powerful than the country’s leaders. Formed in 1822 by King Willem I of the Netherlands, before Belgian independence, the Société Générale pour favoriser l'Industrie Nationale was, as its name says, founded to play an important role in the development of the local industry. This at a moment that the British Industrial Revolution was starting to spread on to the Continent in general and southern Belgium in particular. With production evolving from small home businesses to large industrial enterprises, there was a clear need for much more capital than individual entrepreneurs could provide for. It was this role that the Soc. Gén. played brilliantly for almost two centuries. In that period, the company has held important participations in many of Belgian's most significant companies, played a major role in the economic exploitation of Belgian Congo, was a considerable force in national politics and founded Belgian's biggest bank, la Banque Générale (now BNP Paribas Fortis). The idea was to create a vehicle that could provide sufficient capital to promote the Industrial Revolution in the southern part of his kingdom (i.e. Belgium). The region was rich in coal and famous for its craftmanship, an ideal mix for industrial development. On 13 December 1822, King Willem I approved the statutes of the bank. They foresaw a huge capital : 50 million Dutch Guilders. 20 million were properties brought in by the King (including many woods such as the Brussels Zonienwoud), the other 30 million was divided into 60.000 shares of 500 Guilders. A minimum interest of 5% was guaranteed to the shareholders. Still, the interest of the public in the share issue was very modest : by mid 1823, only 31.226,5 shares were actually subscribed, of which the King had bought no less than 25.800. However, the Soc. Gén. soon became successful by being the official banker of the Kingdom (collecting tax, dealing in government debt, etc.) and by issuing papermoney. Part of the capital was invested in the new industry (canals, roads, coalmines). After the independence of Belgium, the company became not only the official banker of the new kingdom (until 1850 when the National Bank of Belgium was incorporated) but also increasingly invested in its industry. Its importance in financing the Belgian railway network (the world's densest), its coal and textile industries amongst others, can not be overestimated. The Société Générale quickly became (and remained until the end of the 20th century) the most important company of Belgium. Under King Leopold II the investment bank expanded internationally, financing many industries in China, South America, Egypt and Russia. Needless to say that the Société Générale was also the leading commercial power in the Belgian Congo. After the world economic crisis in the 1930s, the company had to split its banking activities from its industrial investments. This gave birth to the Generale Bank of Belgium, the biggest bank of the country (today BNP Paribas Fortis). The Société Générale slowly but surely sold most of its shareholdings and focused on a selected number of key holdings. The most important subsidiaries which were (majority) owned by the Soc. Générale were ACEC (electronics), Co. Maritime Belge (shipping), Distrigas (public utility), Electrabel (public utility), FN (arms manufacturer), Générale de Banque (banking), La Brugeoise et Nivelles (rolling stock manufacturing), Tractebel (public utility), Union Minière (today Umicore) and Forminière (both mining in Belgian Congo). In 1988, the Italian industrial Carlo De Benedetti tried to gain control over the Société Générale. He failed but it meant the entrée of the French Compagnie de Suez in the company's capital. In the following years, Suez increased its holdings in the Société Générale and had fully absorbed it by the late 1990s. 40-page publication of the original and official company statutes, grouped in 66 articles. Printed in Brussels by Imp. Adolphe Stapleaux, Imprimeur-Libraire du Roi. Completely bi-lingual (Flemish / French). Some water staining and damaged borders, but not affecting the text. The starting point of a most important company in Belgium's history.
Themes: BANKING, HOLDING COMPANIES
Startprice: € 1000