He has a name to sleep outside.
Yet it is he, the Canadian Couche-Tard, who has been agitating the world of mass distribution for more than 24 hours.
On the night of Tuesday to Wednesday, this unknown group in France, but king of convenience stores, with sale of gasoline, in Canada and the United States, confirmed information from the Bloomberg agency, according to which it would study a “Rapprochement” with the French and global distribution giant, the Carrefour group.
The Frenchman, chaired since 2017 by Alexandre Bompard, confirmed this approach, while specifying that it was "friendly", and that it was "preliminary discussions".
Carrefour is engaged in a vast reorganization plan
Words have a meaning.
A friendly rapprochement means that if the two groups decided not to go any further, the process would stop right in the middle of the ford, with no unfortunate consequences like a hostile takeover bid, therefore.
Solicited, one and the other did not want to say more, yesterday.
Barely, in the entourage of Alexandre Bompard, we welcomed this approach which proves that the bride is beautiful: engaged in a vast transformation plan for three years, with reorganization of - now too - heavy hypermarkets, and conquest full of e-commerce and drives, the group posted growth of 8.4% in its turnover in Q3 2020 (€ 80.7 billion as of December 31, 2019), a record increase since years.
But, cruel irony of history, we had to wait for the announcement of this possible merger for the share price to finally soar - up to 15% increase in the day Wednesday, to approach 18 euros.
In a second press release yesterday, Alimentation Couche-Tard announced that its offer was 20 per share.
The Canadian employs 130,000 people worldwide
But who is this Canadian ready to swallow a tricolor flagship, whose name was unknown to this day?
Founded in the 1980s by Alain Bouchard, first established in Quebec, then in Canada and the United States, Alimentation Couche-Tard specializes in the operation of these mini markets where you can find hot coffee, toothbrushes , groceries and of course gasoline, 24 hours a day. He operates some 14,000 to date.
For 40 years, it has continued to grow thanks to dozens of acquisitions, including that in 2012 of the Norwegian Statoil - which has since secured it an establishment in Scandinavia, Poland and Russia -, but also at the end of 2020 of the major Hong Kong player, Convenience Retail Asia.
The small convenience store now employs 130,000 people (against 320,000 for Carrefour worldwide), and again in 2019, the chain announced its intention to double by the end of 2023. In fact, the one whose market capitalization is around € 30 billion ( against € 12.6 billion for Carrefour this Tuesday evening) is now in the running for the largest acquisition in its history ...
Some Carrefour shareholders relieved to "get out"
If we understand the interest of the Canadian in this marriage (the terms of which remain to be defined), because Alimentation Couche-Tard, already present as Carrefour in about thirty countries (but not the same), would gain a foothold not only in France, but also in all the strongholds of Carrefour in the world (Brazil, China, etc.), the interest of the French giant of mass distribution is less immediately obvious.
"There could be synergies between the two groups on purchasing centers, on digital, even on logistics," says an expert, cautiously anonymous as long as he does not know if it is a majority buyout or not.
More important: Carrefour could gain in this merger the arrival of new money, which would finance necessary investments.
Questioned, several experts rule out, at least for the time being, a risk on employment, as the fields of action of these two are geographically remote.
This Wednesday morning, according to our information, Alexandre Bompard nevertheless wanted to reassure the unions of the group himself, in particular on this sensitive issue.
Last interest of this operation, finally: with the arrival of a new shareholder, some of the current shareholders of Carrefour could see it a historic opportunity to “leave”, that it is, in order of importance to the capital, from the Moulin family (also owner of Galeries Lafayette), the Brazilian Abilio Diniz, a sharp specialist in the sector, or the LVMH group of Bernard Arnault (notably owner of Le
Parisien-Today in France
All three have bought some of their shares well above the current price.
Bercy could use his veto
In short, many questions still remain unanswered.
What synergies are possible between a great proximity "pro" and our French leader, whose historic core business remains hypermarkets?
What part of the capital, especially, would be bought back?
If it is about a majority buyout, then, a French flagship would come under Canadian control, a real thunderclap… The concrete consequences, they will depend largely on the configuration of this planetary Monopoly.
One thing is clear, however.
The operation does not have the approval of the Ministry of the Economy.
Invited on the set of C à vous, on France 5, this Wednesday evening, on the occasion of the release of his book “The Angel and the Beast” (Ed. Gallimard), Bruno Le Maire has indeed not concealed Bercy's hostility to such a redemption.
“First of all, I am always wary of the term 'friendly', you always have to ask yourself what is behind it,” he declared in the preamble, before recalling that Carrefour, “it is the first private employer in France, and an essential link in the security of supply of the French.
What is at stake is this food safety ”, he insisted, before stressing that he would therefore“ not be favorable ”in the event of“ takeover (
Editor's note of Carrefour
) by a foreign competitor ” .
But how do you prevent two private companies from joining forces?
Not only, continued Bruno Le Maire, "a decree on the control of foreign investments in France allows us to give our consent, or not", but "this decree has been completed in the Pacte law, and food distribution" is now "Subject to prior agreement when there is an operation of this type".
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The minister was clear: a majority takeover of Carrefour will not have the green light from the government.