Dividends in the billions: why the richest German is getting richer

Kuehne Nagel, Hapag Lloyd, Lufthansa - multi-billionaire and investor Klaus-Michael Kuehne can currently look forward to a fat rain of dividends.

Dividends in the billions: why the richest German is getting richer

Kuehne Nagel, Hapag Lloyd, Lufthansa - multi-billionaire and investor Klaus-Michael Kuehne can currently look forward to a fat rain of dividends. The money from his holdings comes at the right time. The old master, who doesn't believe in fashion trends, has new plans.

Klaus-Michael Kühne is officially Germany's most successful entrepreneur. With an estimated fortune of 38 billion euros, he pushed Lidl founder Dieter Schwarz off the throne in the rich list of the Bloomberg Billionaire's Index. Kühne doesn't have star qualities like Elon Musk or Bill Gates, his companies aren't half as sexy. Despite his proud 85 years, nobody would call him a living investor legend like Warren Buffett. But as a businessman, the Hanseatic citizen obviously did some things right in his voluntary and tax-optimized exile in Switzerland.

The empire of the multi-billionaire includes large holdings in the logistics company Kühne Nagel, the airline Lufthansa and the shipping company Hapag-Lloyd. All of them are currently giving him a billion-dollar dividend rain. Taken together, according to the Bloomberg finance agency, the distributions have so far totaled a whopping 4.2 billion euros. It's not the end yet.

The block of shares of 30 percent in Hapag Lloyd contributes the largest chunk – 3.3 billion euros. Kühne's stake in the family company Kühne Nagel brings in another almost 900 million euros. The sponsor of the Elbphilharmonie and the Hamburger Sportverein took over the logistics company from his father in 1966. Today it is the world's largest forwarding company for air and sea freight. After a record profit, the group announced a dividend of 14 francs this week, 40 percent more than in the previous year. Kühne holds 53 percent of the shares and earns with it.

His participation in Lufthansa will probably still make Kühne's coffers ring. The German airline will open its books on Friday. The Swiss-by-choice holds a total of 17.5 percent of the shares, most of them through his holding company. This makes him by far the largest shareholder in the group. Here, too, he will earn accordingly. The windfall comes at the right time, because the model entrepreneur with the aversion to a quiet retirement is not short of new investment ideas.

As a businessman, Kühne picked big raisins: Lufthansa shares have risen 65 percent in the past six months. Hapag Lloyd even earned more than VW last year - with a tenth of the employees. Kühne got involved in 2008 with one billion euros, today his block of shares is worth eleven billion euros.

So he doesn't lose his grip on the ground. "Our long-term concept was good," summed up the gray eminence with a sharp parting and a flawless shave in a recent interview with "Manager Magazin". "We have invested cleverly and developed excellently." It was an "incredible development". Stock market values ​​would fall again. The record results of 2021 and 2022 could probably not be repeated in this way either. For example, Kuehne Nagel benefited from the incredible increases in freight rates during the pandemic. Those days are over. Prices have calmed down again.

Kuehne is looking ahead. What he wants to do with the money he is now earning is evidently already clear to him. In addition to the area of ​​transport and traffic, Kühne is also invested in real estate. Among other things, at Signa Prime Selection AG, a company owned by the Austrian billionaire René Benko. The investment is currently "somewhat volatile", admits Kühne in an interview, the topic is "under observation". But he does look around in London, he reveals, "the real estate there is relatively cheap at the moment."

And Kühne is flirting with another idea: he would like to see Hapag Lloyd buy the DB subsidiary Schenker. However, the other shareholders would not participate, he says. That's why Kuehne Nagel is now keeping a very close eye on sales. Because Schenker shouldn't grab a big competitor. "We at Kuehne Nagel are observing this issue very closely." He does not want to rule out a joint takeover with a minority stake together with private equity firms.

When asked what he thinks of management trends such as agility, diversity and new work, Kühne once gave an answer that was very typical of him: "I don't necessarily let myself be guided by trends that are due to fashion or the zeitgeist." It has paid off so far. Kühne is currently in 30th place in the club of the richest of the rich. There is still room for improvement.