France has reiterated its opposition to the €16.2bn takeover of grocery store group Carrefour by Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard, dealing a significant setback to the teams’ hopes that they might overcome authorities considerations over meals safety and jobs.
“My reply is extraordinarily clear: we’re not in favour of the deal,” mentioned Bruno Le Maire, French finance minister, in an interview with BFM TV on Friday. “The no is well mannered however it’s a transparent and closing no.”
The businesses had continued negotiations on a deal, in keeping with folks conversant in the matter, although the federal government had already signalled its concerns on Wednesday about how the tie-up would threaten France’s “meals sovereignty”.
They have been discussing pledges on jobs, suppliers, governance and administration, along with the €20 per share value of the initial offer.
Alain Bouchard, Couche-Tard’s co-founder and chairman, flew to Paris on Thursday in an effort to safe a gathering with Mr Le Maire to current him with the proposal, the folks mentioned.
However Mr Le Maire’s newest intervention appeared aimed toward scuppering the deal earlier than it acquired to his desk.
Below French regulation, the federal government can evaluation takeovers of home firms by overseas consumers in sectors it deems strategic, corresponding to power, water or telecoms. France has regularly expanded the listing of areas coated by the regulation and final yr added “meals safety”.
“We’ve the authorized device out there to us [to block the deal], even when I would like to not have to make use of it,” Mr Le Maire instructed BFM TV.
“What’s at stake is the meals safety of our nation . . . particularly after the [Covid-19] well being disaster has taught us how no value will be placed on it.”
Carrefour declined to remark, and Couche-Tard couldn’t instantly be reached to remark.
Carrefour’s shares have been down about 4 per cent in morning buying and selling.
The proposed tie-up is aimed toward combining two firms with very totally different codecs and geographical footprints right into a retailing big value greater than $50bn and the third-largest grocer globally behind Walmart and Schwarz Group, which owns German discounter Lidl.
The Canadian firm needs to diversify its petrol station and comfort retailer enterprise into grocery whereas additionally taking Couche-Tard additional into Europe and Latin America.
Carrefour is one in all Europe’s largest grocery chains with about 2,000 supermarkets and greater than 700 large-format hypermarkets in Europe; it additionally has a presence in Brazil and Argentina.
The group is one in all France’s largest non-public sector employers with greater than 100,000 staff.
Philippe Martinez, who leads the leftwing CGT labour union, instructed France Televisions on Friday that such offers “usually result in huge job cuts” and weren’t within the “public curiosity, nor that of customers”.
“If the state doesn’t intervene at such a time,” he mentioned, “then what’s the level of it?”