Families behind forklift group TVH are breaking up

The two families behind the TVH lift truck group each go their way. De Tijd heard this and confirms the company. The Vanhalst family will become 100 percent owner of the Mateco machinery division. 60 percent of the TVH Parts parts division ends up with the Thermote family. A search for a partner starts for the remaining shares (40%).

In 2018, the group’s operational activities had already been split up, which generated a combined turnover of 1.7 billion euros in 2019 with 6,700 employees. Two separate divisions were then formed: Mateco, the lessor and seller of lift trucks and aerial work platforms, and TVH Parts, which has developed a worldwide logistics network for parts for those machines.

Any division has had a separate growth strategy and its own CEO for two years now: Dominiek Valcke, a longtime confidant of the two families, heads TVH Parts, and the German Armin Rappen heads Mateco. The latter was taken over by TVH Groep in 2011. Only the shareholders remained the same: Ann and Els Thermote, the daughters of co-founder Paul Thermote, and Pascal Vanhalst, the son of the other founder Paul Vanhalst, who died in 2002.


Until now. According to various sources, which are confirmed by Valcke, the families each go their own way: Pascal Vanhalst becomes full owner of Mateco, Ann and Els Thermote get 60 percent of TVH Parts. For the remaining 40 percent in TVH Parts, the search for an investor outside the family starts. The investment bank JPMorgan and the law firm Allen & Overy have been approached for this.

A clear succession planning and transfer to the third generation – ten children between the ages of 2 and 22 – is, according to Valcke, the only motive for splitting up the family business. ‘In view of the third generation, the families wanted a clear division. They did not want to end up in an ABInBev scenario where share ownership becomes too fragmented. ‘

According to insiders, however, there would be serious disagreement between the two families about the course to be followed, something Valcke firmly denies. ‘Both families have had their own vision and affinity with each of the divisions for some time now. Paul Vanhalst has always been the man of the machines, Paul Thermote was more interested in parts. That has always continued to live on. ‘

For 40 percent of TVH Parts, we are looking for a buyer who understands the company. Someone who says in advance that he will be on board for a maximum of five years will not enter.

Dominiek Valcke


The deal is thus partly closed by a share exchange, partly by the search for an external partner. Valcke does not want to lose the appreciation that is attached to both groups. Also the gross operating profit (EBITDA), which can be used to calculate the total value (as a multiple of the EBITDA), was never disclosed. According to observers, this amounts to 300 to 350 million on a turnover of 1.7 billion euros. It is well known that the Parts division is traditionally the most profitable.


The external party must agree with the long-term vision of the Thermote family, says Valcke. ‘We are looking for a party that understands the company and can agree with its values ​​and culture. Someone who says in advance that he will be on board for a maximum of five years will not enter. We also don’t want to end up in an aggressive situation with heavy leverage. ‘

There is one exception in the whole story. TVH Equipment nv, the Belgian branch of Mateco where it all started 50 years ago, remains in the hands of both families, through a joint venture. ‘A specialleke‘, Valcke calls it. ‘There is a certain emotional connection here with the origins of the company. It also shows that there is no major quarrel between the families. ‘

In 50 years from 0 to 1.7 billion euros turnover

TVH’s success story began in 1969, when friends Paul Thermote and Paul Vanhalst started a trade in lift trucks that the army had discarded. Fifty years later, the group has a turnover of 1.7 billion euros (2019), a fourfold increase compared to 2006. It employs 6,700 people, of which 2,500 in Waregem.

With the restructuring of the group, with the split into TVH Parts and Mateco in 2018, the family shareholders withdrew from the operational management. After the sudden death of Paul Vanhalst in 2002, Paul Thermote continued to manage the business, together with his two daughters Ann and Els, and Pascal Vanhalst.

They are now only on the boards of directors of both Mateco and TVH Parts. External directors have also made their appearance there. At Mateco, Luc Missorten, ex-CEO of Corelio and director at Ontex, Barco and Recticel, has been an external director since 2018. At TVH Parts this became Jan Van der Stichele, chairman of Lotus Bakeries and of the food federation Fevia. Besides the family members, Patrick Lecluyse, ex-CEO of Betafence and ex-CEO of Van Moer Logistics, is the only connection between the two. He is chairman of both boards of directors.

Ask about the profit or the annual investment budget of TVH Group and CEOs Dominiek Valcke and Armin Rappen stick to the answer ‘significant’. ‘What I can tell you is our ambition: in a few years’ time we want to reach the 2 billion euro turnover mark with the entire group,’ said an interview with both last year.

It shows the company, which has been shrouded in mystery for years. The group consists of a maze of hundreds of companies, and does not publish any consolidated results, neither in Belgium nor in Luxembourg, where Quertus, the family’s umbrella holding company, is housed.

To get a picture of the profitability, we look at the statutory annual accounts of the largest company in the group that we can find at the National Bank: TVH Parts (not to be confused with the holding company). This generated a turnover of 541 million euros in 2018, which was offset by an operating profit of 102 million euros.

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