Group of private investors benefit most from profits of large companies

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The general shareholders’ meeting of supermarket group Ahold Delhaiz last year
NOS NewsAmended
  • Charlotte Klein

    editor Economics

  • Eve Wiessing

    reporter Economy

Not the average pensioner, but especially the wealthy private investor benefits from the profits of large Dutch listed companies. An analysis by the NOS shows that a relatively small number of wealthy private investors in the Netherlands have many billions worth of shares in AEX companies, much more than the large pension funds. As a result, the profit distributions of these companies hardly reach people with a supplementary pension.

The five largest pension funds together have more than 2 billion euros worth of shares in Shell, Unilever, ING, Ahold Delhaize, DSM, ASML and Philips. That is less than half a percent of the total. Private investors own much more shares: together they invest directly for 13.5 billion euros in these companies.

“Our shareholders are for the most part pensioners, who depend on the dividend we pay to keep their heads above water,” said Unilever CEO Alan Jope at the presentation of the annual results. But the NOS research shows that this is rather disappointing for pensioners who are members of the five major Dutch pension funds.


Now that the annual earnings season is almost over, the balance can be drawn. Despite inflation, and therefore also rising costs for companies, multinationals such as Shell, Unilever and ING booked billions in profits. Earlier, the NOS noted that the shareholders benefited from this. The question arose who they are.

That is why we looked at the shareholders of Shell, Unilever, ING, Ahold Delhaize, DSM, ASML and Philips. These companies have the common denominator that they are or were well-known large Dutch listed companies, such as Shell (now British) and Philips (not so big anymore). There has been public and political outcry over the profits of some of those companies.

In addition, it was investigated how many shares the five largest pension funds have in these seven companies. The largest pension funds are ABP, Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), bpfBOUW, PMT and PME. De Nederlandsche Bank has calculated how much money Dutch private individuals have invested directly in these companies.

This resulted in these numbers (are you looking at a small screen? Swipe to see all numbers):

Stocks of large companies

Company Top 5 pension funds Private shareholders
ASML 598 million 2477 million
Shell 544 million 4976 million
Unilever 391 million 1479 million
Ahold Delhaize 231 million 1042 million
ING 120 million 2085 million
DSM 63 million 922 million
Phillips 77 million 525 million

Thijs Knaap of pension provider APG is surprised that private individuals invest so much more in listed companies than the large pension funds. But he doesn’t think it’s illogical, because pension funds invest in the long term and try to spread the risks as much as possible. While private investors are more inclined to choose shares of local companies because they know them better.

“We spread our shares and investments all over the world, across thousands of companies, and then the share in a specific company is very small. So the share of Unilever’s profits that ends up with us is very small, under 1 percent .”

This means that Dutch pension funds mainly receive their dividend income from foreign companies. “That could just as well be Unilever’s American counterpart, Procter & Gamble,” argues Knaap.

Good income

There is therefore little chance that the people who are now having such a hard time because of the expensive groceries via their pension funds or their own investments will still benefit from the mega profits of supermarket group Ahold Delhaize or food giant Unilever.

“I think that if you walk down the street and ask a random person: are you a private shareholder? Then you have to wait a long time until you meet one,” says Knaap of APG.

“They are people with a lot of money, often elderly people who have had a good income and have invested part of their savings in stocks. Most ‘ordinary people’ have no wealth in stocks, only through pension funds.” Moreover, not everyone in the Netherlands has a supplementary pension.

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