On April 1, 1896, a group of eight Dutch coal wholesalers, some of which had been entrepreneurs and traders since the 18th century, founded the Steenkolen Handels-Vereeniging (SHV) in Utrecht, The Netherlands.
By 1904, SHV had acquired exclusivity in the Netherlands for trading in German coal from the Westfalen area. SHV innovated the coal industry by building the first mechanical coal transporter as well as an elevator coal transporter with a -for 1907 revolutionary- capacity of 300 tons of coal per hour. SHV was and remained for many years a frontrunner in the development and modernisation of the Rotterdam harbour. SHV was the first company to use onshore bridges for loading and unloading coal. In 1913 the head office of SHV moved to its current location in Utrecht. SHV also had offices in Amsterdam and Rotterdam.
In 1917 the NEMOS (N.V. Nederlandsche Maatschappij tot Ontginning van de Steenkolenvelden) was established to exploit the German anthracite mine “Sophia Jacoba”. The majority of shares belonged to “Administratiekantoor Unitas”, a company which was founded some years earlier by SHV and which was active in what one would today call ’venture capital’. Unitas was involved in the founding of Hoogovens, Akzo and KLM. From 1924 SHV started exporting coal and soon the foreign sales formed an important part of the activities of the company.
The oil era introduced itself. Before World War I about 94% of the world’s ships’ tonnage was fuelled with coal; by 1939 this was only 48%. In line with the entrepreneurial character and trading spirit of the founders of SHV, the first oil bunker station of SHV was established. The depression in the fishing industry in The Netherlands led to a merger of three important shipping companies. “De Verenigde Exploitatiemij.” (VEM) was established with SHV as majority shareholder. SHV sold its first oil to this company for the benefit of the – recently launched – motor trawlers used for fishing.
After 1945 SHV’s Rhine-fleet used for transportation of coal was incorporated in its subsidiary NRV (N.V. Nederlandsche Rijnvaart Vereniging) at the time the biggest inland waterway shipping company in the world. In the 1950’s there was a clear switch from solid to liquid fuel. SHV purchased oil interests in Austria and Italy. The trade in all sorts of petroleum products, as well as the oil bunker business gained importance fast.
In 1956 the name “Trading”, which SHV used for its oil related activities, was changed into “PAM”. Under the brand name PAM, SHV supplied oil products, including lubricating oil, and owned a chain of gasoline stations in the Netherlands, Austria and West Germany. The sale of oil for heating homes and industrial purposes was started in the Netherlands as well as in Belgium, Luxembourg and Denmark by the Calpam organisation, in which SHV had a 50% interest. SHV also participated in the development of natural gas in the Netherlands in 1963 – the very beginning – through its subsidiary Dyas.
Continuing the entrepreneurial character and trading spirit of its founders, SHV in the late 1960’s, in order to enlarge its operating base and in response to the collapse of the coal market, entered a number of new markets: distribution of consumer goods, technical installation, building industry, ship trading and technical equipment trading. Initially these activities were concentrated in Western Europe. During the 1970’s SHV was one of the largest employers in the Netherlands and the first Dutch company with its own pension fund. Later, the activities were also spread geographically: in 1975 SHV acquired The David J. Joseph Company of Cincinnati, Ohio. This company, dating back to 1885, is today the largest scrap metal trader in the United States.
In 1968 SHV opened its first Makro self-service wholesale store in Amsterdam. Makro was soon expanded to other European countries. During the 1970’s and 1980’s SHV extended its Makro business to the Americas and Asia. Otto Reichelt in Germany was SHV’s most important food retailing company from 1970 to 1995. Of a smaller size were the Xenos and Kijkshop self-service stores in the Netherlands.
As from the 1980’s SHV re-focused itself on trading in energy and consumer goods. The LPG distribution activities and Makro stores were strengthened and expanded. LPG activities were started in various countries in South America and Asia.
SHV’s activities in technical equipment trading were mainly carried out by Geveke. Geveke’s electronics activities were included in Geveke Electronics. SHV also took over technical installation companies, which were integrated into the Group Technical Installation. GTI, Geveke and Geveke Electronics (now known as Getronics) became independent companies listed on the stock exchange in 1983.
SHV expanded its activities in the transport and handling of dry bulk goods. The main companies in which SHV participated in the Netherlands were EMO (Europees Massagoed Overslagbedrijf), EKOM, SNV and De Rietlanden. SHV also held an interest in the Rhine push towing company Europese Waterweg-Transporten (EWT) and the shipping company Van Nievelt, Goudriaan & Co., which maintained a liner service between Europe and South America.
In 1997 the Makro stores in Europe were sold. Since then SHV has continued to invest in her LPG companies worldwide and expanded Makro in South America. Several Makro activities in Asia were sold. Makro Thailand is growing further. The scrap metal processing activities of TSR were sold in 2006, followed by the David J. Joseph Company in 2008.
The group was further strengthened by NPM Capital, a private equity company, Mammoet, a specialist heavy-lifting and transport company and ERIKS, an industrial service provider. Also, the first steps have been made in renewable energy.
Although the face of SHV has changed over time, the entrepreneurial spirit that has shaped the company throughout the years still flourishes today.