Will the friendly rapprochement project between the Canadian group Couche-Tard and Carrefour turn into the diplomatic crisis between Paris and Ottawa?
Decided to ban this marriage, Bruno Le Maire, the French Minister of the Economy, does everything to avoid it.
He spoke Friday evening with Pierre Fitzgibbon, his Quebec counterpart.
The day before, the latter had said to be
"in contact with the Elysee to promote the fact that Couche-Tard could be a good owner"
Despite Le Maire's veto, Carrefour and Couche-Tard continue to negotiate a wedding project
The subject, which agitates the business and political circles on both sides of the Atlantic, is followed closely in Ottawa.
During a press conference on Friday evening, Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, affirmed to support national companies in their expansion projects abroad, without wanting to comment on the Couche-Tard-Carrefour file.
Contrary to rumors, he did not discuss the subject with Emmanuel Macron.
The two leaders spoke Monday by video conference as part of the One Planet Summit, while the project was still secret ...
My position is a courteous no, but clear and definitive.
Bruno the Mayor
Following the revelations of the Bloomberg agency, Carrefour and Couche-Tard were forced to formalize their
“very preliminary discussions”
on the night from Tuesday to Wednesday,
“in a friendly approach”
: at the beginning of January, Couche-Tard sent a non-binding letter of intent to buy Carrefour 16.3 billion euros.
Couche-Tard, a Quebecer who has become a supermarket giant through acquisitions
As of Wednesday evening, Bruno Le Maire expressed his opposition, justifying it by the food sovereignty of France.
"My position is a no courteous, but clear and definitive"
, hammered Bruno Le Maire on RMC on Friday morning.
»See also - Clément Beaune explains why the government is opposed to the takeover of Carrefour by Couche-Tard
After these demonstrations of force intended to convince Couche-Tard to interrupt its discussions with Carrefour and not to present a binding offer, the minister received the main shareholder of the Canadian group on Friday afternoon.
Alain Bouchard, founder and executive chairman of the board of directors of Couche-Tard, crossed the Atlantic overnight to pursue the case.
“Quebeckers are stunned,”
“Quebeckers are stunned,”
confides a relative.
Everything was prepared for the submission of a binding offer, which would have allowed the meeting of the Board of Directors of Carrefour before entering into exclusive negotiations. ”
Accompanied by the general manager of the Quebec distributor, Brian Hannash, Alain Bouchard was received for the first time in Bercy in the morning by Bertrand Dumont, the chief of staff of the Minister of the Economy.
The big Quebec boss also met Alexandre Bompard, CEO of Carrefour.
According to our information, the two main shareholders of Carrefour, the Arnault and Moulin families, had instructed the latter to ensure that Quebecers do not let go of the affair, despite threats from the executive power.
Friday evening, the Canadian group had not announced its intentions for the continuation or not of its project.
The Carrefour share closed down 2.7% to 16.6 euros.
"The markets still establish at 25% the probability that the transaction will take place,"
assures an investor.
Otherwise, the share price would fall to 15 euros. "
We have asked for a European committee to be convened to see things more clearly.
We expect it for next week.
Sylvain Macé, CFDT central union delegate
The prospect of the takeover of Carrefour raises the concern of the group's employees.
Force Ouvrière, in the majority, is worried about
She sees in this project only a
"financial transaction for the benefit of the shareholders"
The CFDT is more circumspect but wonders.
“We asked for a European committee to be convened to see things more clearly.
We expect it for next week,
explains Sylvain Macé, CFDT central union delegate.
Our Spanish and Italian colleagues, who do not have the protection of the French state, are particularly worried. ”
The main agricultural union, the FNSEA, is also sounding the alarm.
"This buyout could make Carrefour a hub for the arrival of Canadian products, and in particular their beef, dairy products and rapeseed,"
warns Christiane Lambert, president of the FNSEA.
Former Minister of Agriculture, Bruno Le Maire knows that a takeover of Carrefour by a foreign group would be very unpopular with this profession.
Carrefour: "surprise" and "concern" among employees
The food industry, they are less worried.
“Carrefour has nearly 20% of the market share in France.
Under the Canadian flag or not, it cannot fail to favor French agricultural production chains,
believes Richard Girardot, president of Ania, which brings together the food industry in France.
The pressure from consumers, public authorities and the media is far too strong.
There is no reason for a takeover to call into question the strategy which is that of Carrefour today ”
, which consists in supplying more local products.
The former boss of Nestlé France underlines that in North America, distributors treat manufacturers better:
“They are considered there as partners, not as suppliers.
Trade negotiations are conducted with loyalty and respect, which is not always the case in France. ”
»See also - Carrefour: was the State right to block?