Carrefour staff anxious about Couche-Tard approach, union says

Daniel Fowler
January 15, 2021

"Now it remains to be seen if the government has leeway".

"What's at stake is the food security of our country (.) food security is strategic for our country so that's why we don't sell a big French retailer", Le Maire told BFM TV.

In interviews on Wednesday and Thursday, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said a deal would present a "major difficulty" for the government because of the need to guarantee food security for French citizens. "The no is polite but it's a clear and final no".

"Carrefour has been approached, in a friendly manner, by the Alimentation Couche-Tard group, with a combination project", Carrefour said in a statement.

Couche-Tard earlier on Wednesday confirmed that it had made a non-binding offer of 20 euros ($24.32) a share for the company, valuing it at around EUR16.1 billion ($19.58 billion).

The deal looked increasingly likely to fall through, several people close to the talks told Reuters, although discussions about a potential takeover were still ongoing.

Carrefour is France's largest grocery chain with about 2,000 supermarkets and more than 700 large-format hypermarkets in Europe.

Carrefour is Europe's biggest retailer and the biggest private employer in France, with over 105,000 employees in the country.

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Enguelz said he was more concerned about jobs.

"If this deal were to be completed it would be a truly mega-event in the world of food and convenience retailing", Clive Black, head of research at Shore Capital, said in a note.

The president pushed to renegotiate the terms of a Franco-Italian shipping deal soon after his election, though as economy ministry he also oversaw the sale of companies like telecoms group Alcatel, which ended with job cuts under new owner Nokia.

"Carrefour is the biggest private sector employer in France with almost 100,000 employees", he noted, and the group accounts for 20 percent of the food distribution market in the country. "The idea that Carrefour might be bought by a foreign player-in principle, I am not in favor of such a move".

France's Alstom recently sealed a deal to buy Canadian rival Bombardier Inc's rail business.

This raised questions over the potential for costs savings.

Couche-Tard has a worldwide network of more than 14,200 stores and earned a net profit of $2.4 billion on sales of $54 billion in its last complete year.

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