Why is gebana a Stock Company?

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Many small and medium investors support gebana. We would like to introduce some of them and show you how gebana is financed.

Customers keep asking us why gebana is a stock company and not a foundation. The answer is simple: in our view, economic thinking and fair trade are not contradictory – quite the contrary.

gebana has a share capital of 4 million Swiss francs, which is distributed among some 900 shareholders. Their shares range from a single share valued at 100 Swiss francs to six-digit figures. Around 100 shareholders have voting rights at gebana and some 800 people have so-called participation certificates which grant a discount on purchases in the online shop instead.

Some people associate investors with stock market speculation. gebana has nothing to do with that. Our shares are not easily tradable because we are not listed on the stock exchange. Legally, we are a stock company (Aktiengesellschaft or AG), but this has nothing to do with speculation or profit maximization.

The legal structure of a stock company automatically leads to more transparency in corporate management as well as externally. In addition to management, a board of directors must be appointed as a supervisory body. A stock company must also undergo regular audits and make an annual report available to all shareholders.

Legally, a foundation could offer something similar. A foundation also has to give an account of its activities and usually has a board that supervises and approves decisions. "I think an organizational structure that relies on donations is counterproductive," says Adrian Wiedmer, managing director of gebana. "Economic pressure is a great driver and profit allows us to achieve more and share more. We are constantly looking for new ways to ensure that our economic ambition ​​and our values don’t clash but rather support one another."

Who Invests In gebana?

Usually, shareholders receive a dividend after the end of the financial year, i.e. a share of the profit that the entrepreneur makes. The dividend is calculated per share. This has never been the case at gebana.

According to the concept, gebana shareholders are entitled to one third of yearly profits. So far, they have not requested that these funds be paid out to them. Instead, they have reinvested their share directly into the company. What drives them to do this?

Some have been with gebana since the 1990s when it all began, so they have witnessed the many years where gebana made no profit at all. As Marguerite Misteli explained at the gebana general assembly in 2021, “I knew Ursula Brunner and the banana women, and I was regularly in the South as a development planner myself. Very few people in Switzerland think about how we have built up part of our prosperity at the expense of these countries and how these countries have remained poor. It is therefore nothing but fair if we now invest locally without thinking of profit for us.”

Former employee and shareholder Remo Weber has a similar opinion. “I never invested in gebana in order to get something back. For me, the dividend is what gebana invests in Africa: creating local jobs and improving trade structures. That’s enough for me.”

Long-time investor Erwin Schärer agrees and shows patience. “The lack of dividends doesn’t bother me at all. Every company has to create a cushion first,” he says. “If you start something from scratch like gebana, it can take a few years.”

Different Interests, Different Types Of Investment

So, are all gebana investors acting purely out of the goodness of their hearts? Things aren’t so simple.

Adrian Wiedmer remembers the times when gebana was only able to convince a few people to invest in the company. “These are long-term investors who took a great risk from the start and mainly wanted to support our work in the South. On the other hand, there are definitely those who are financially oriented and expect a return, at least in the long term.” Wiedmer is convinced that both are needed.

The third group of investors has only existed since summer 2020, when 1200 people bought gebana bonds. Bonds are fixed-term loans. Most of these bonds even carry an additional risk because they are second tier. This means that in the event of financial difficulties, they are almost treated like equity and can only be reimbursed when all other debts have been paid.

We are grateful and proud that so many people share our vision and trust us with their money. Thanks to them, we are not dependent on major investors who could influence the direction of the company.

How Can I Invest In gebana?

It isn’t possible to invest in gebana directly at the moment. However, there is a waiting list for those interested, and the Freie Gemeinschafsbank in Basel accepts trust loans for us. For more information, please contact investieren@gebana.com

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