The announced marriage turns into trench warfare.
Two days after the surprise declaration of a "friendly rapprochement" between the Canadian Couche-Tard, king of convenience stores, and the French distribution giant Carrefour, immediately rejected by the French government, each is firmly rooted in its positions.
On the one hand, discussions are continuing, with a Canadian staff in Paris for several days already and which does not seem to have any intention of packing up anytime soon.
In Couche-Tard's entourage, we also confirm the idea of a takeover, with a proposed price of 20 euros per share.
Why Bruno Le Maire says no to the takeover of Carrefour
On the other, Bercy does not give up.
"A priori, I am not in favor of this operation," Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, said on Wednesday, describing Carrefour as "an essential link [...] in food sovereignty".
No new comment this Thursday at the Ministry of the Economy.
But those who would hope to flush out in the "a priori", the possibility of a reversal of situation risk, to be at their expense.
“Nothing prevents Carrefour and Canadians from presenting a project, from spending money on advice, legal fees and investment banking.
However, there is no reason for the minister's position to change, ”says a person close to the file.
A method considered cavalier
First, there are the obstacles on the bottom.
By nature, Bruno Le Maire is very focused on these subjects of economic sovereignty.
When in 2005, rumors suggest that the American PepsiCo could launch a hostile takeover bid on Danone, Dominique de Villepin, the Prime Minister, draws a decree to control foreign investments.
His chief of staff is a certain… Bruno Le Maire.
Having become Emmanuel Macron's Minister of the Economy, it was he who extended Bercy's right of veto, via the Pacte law, to the sectors of cybersecurity, space or artificial intelligence.
The agrifood sector is just as important to him.
"Our Minister of the Economy is a former Minister of Agriculture, related issues are very important in his thinking," says one of his advisers.
Then there are also the complaints about the form.
Behind the scenes, the Couche-Tard-Carrefour method was unhappy.
Usually, on these sensitive subjects, companies discreetly survey Bercy upstream.
If the department does not agree, it makes them understand without making waves and the negotiations do not go further.
But in this file, "nothing had been raised before", loose a senior official.
Everyone was taken aback, Bruno Le Maire would not have been kept informed until the day before.
A method considered cavalier by some.
The question of employment at the heart of concerns
Bercy, finally, thinks of the unemployment figures.
“Canadians explain that there are no jobs that can be relocated, that they are not going to reduce the number of stores… But what do we know?
What if someone else bought their shares sometime later?
However, the Couche-tard is ready to dispel doubts, by "making commitments on several points", in particular to "reassure on food safety, give pledges on employment as well as on the maintenance of management teams. or the headquarters of Carrefour in France, ”explains those around him.
It remains to be seen who will be the first to give up ground on this sensitive negotiation, which affects the independence of the first private French employer in France (more than 100,000 employees) and which still includes many unknowns.
Would this be a 100% buyout or a takeover?
And why is the “pro” of supermarkets across the Atlantic interested in the sixth largest group in the world, positioned on a vast network of hypermarkets in distress?
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Several experts are stunned.
“I have done dozens of operations,” testifies one of them, on condition of anonymity, and I have never seen anything like this: an unknown player, different professions, weak synergies.
This deal is incomprehensible, unless there is something behind that we find out later?
"" Is this a financial transaction or an operational agreement?
"Echoed Sylvain Macé, the CFDT group delegate, all the more anxious to be reassured about employment as" for two years, we have already lost 10,000 employees ".