Strike notices, demonstrations in Saint-Étienne (Loire) and in the Paris region... Casino's unions have been calling for a general mobilization on Tuesday since the financially troubled group said it was ready to sell stores to competitors. "Casino and Sainté have been going on for 125 years," say the five employee representative organisations (FO, CGT, CFDT, UNSA, CFE-CGC) in their call for mobilisation. "Without your solidarity, this could stop."
The group, which also owns Monoprix, Franprix, Pao de Acucar, Exito, still had 200,000 employees at the end of 2022, including 50,000 in France, but is going through very strong turbulence. It agreed with its creditors at the end of July on a spectacular restructuring of its unsustainable debt, accompanied by a change of shareholding with a takeover by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, Frenchman Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière and the British fund Attestor. The handover of the man who is still CEO and largest shareholder of the group, Jean-Charles Naouri, is scheduled for the first quarter of 2024.
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In the meantime, Casino's economic situation is not improving. The group had to study "expressions of interest" from competitors for the takeover of hypermarkets and supermarkets. He did not specify what scope is affected, but all of the large-format stores could be sold, according to sources familiar with the matter. This is enough to make the unions fear a "cut-up sale".
Rivals Auchan and Intermarché have submitted a bid for all the stores, an Auchan representative, Serge Papin, officially said Thursday evening on BFM Business. Other bids have been submitted, but not officially confirmed.
Fears for social conditions and support functions
Despite Casino's critical situation, its stores are coveted in a highly competitive sector where the acquisition of new points of sale allows a retailer to inflate its market share, a crucial factor. The larger the market share, the less the agro-industrial supplier can do without this distributor and the more inclined it is to grant it better sales conditions. This quest is all the more frantic at the moment because the leader in the sector, E.Leclerc, is experiencing spectacular growth.
Intermarché has already signed a deal with Casino to buy 119 stores, plus an option for around sixty, a few months ago. The No. 3 in the sector in France (behind Carrefour) must take over the 4000,<> employees concerned, but the unions fear to experience worse social conditions than at Casino. A more massive sale would have consequences for Casino's support functions. Nathalie Devenir (FO), one of the spokespersons for the inter-union association, fears "for the other subsidiaries, logistics and head offices". It seems unlikely that the candidates for the takeover of the stores will need all of Casino's logistics.
In Saint-Étienne, where "we remember the end of Manufrance and the arms factory and the economic consequences", according to the inter-union union, the rally was held in front of the head office, an imposing ocean liner where 2000,4000 people worked. A demonstration is then planned to go all the way to the prefecture and the town hall. Casino, founded by Geoffroy Guichard, who gave his name to the AS Saint-Étienne football stadium, employs around 1 people in the Loire department alone. The elected representatives of the municipal opposition group PS and various left-wing parties in Saint-Étienne are also demonstrating "to show their attachment" to maintaining activity in the region. Quentin Bataillon, Renaissance MP for the <>st constituency of the Loire, spoke on Monday of a "very worrying" situation.
A demonstration is also planned in Vitry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne), where Franprix's headquarters are located. About 1600,5 people work there, according to the CFE-CGC. A strike notice has been filed from 31 to <> December by the unions, concerning "all employees and managers of the group". In mid-July, Bruno Le Maire, the Minister of the Economy, signalled that "the State (will be) vigilant on employment" and on the maintenance of the "headquarters in Saint-Étienne". A spokesman for Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky's EP group in France said last week that he was "committed to maintaining a seat in Saint-Etienne".