Despite the “clear and definitive” refusal of the French Minister of the Economy to allow Couche-Tard to acquire the giant Carrefour, the two companies in the food sector announced in a joint press release on Saturday that they were extending “Their discussions to examine opportunities for operational partnerships”.
• Read also: Couche-Tard renounces Carrefour
Alexandre Bompard, Chairman and CEO of Carrefour, kept the door open not to a takeover, but to a partnership, declaring in a press release that “the promising partnership envisaged with the North American leader Couche-Tard is fully in line with this strategy [de transformation] which has already enabled us to find a profitable growth path ”.
For his part, the CEO of Couche-Tard, Brian Hannasch, declared that “the operational opportunities with Carrefour will enable us to fulfill our ambition to become a world leader in mass distribution”.
If the idea of a takeover is out of the question, these new statements open the door to interesting partnerships for Couche-Tard, which could extend its hold on European markets.
“The areas of cooperation envisaged are aligned with our strategic plan, our commitment to strengthen ourselves in our main activities such as proximity formats and fuel distribution, and our desire to explore the multiple opportunities in the associated growth areas”, Mr Hannasch added.
Earlier this week, Alimentation Couche-Tard revealed that it had “submitted to Carrefour a non-binding letter of intent with a view to a friendly reconciliation”, that is to say a purchase offer amounting to nearly $ 25 billion (CAN).
Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy, has indicated that he will not let the giant Carrefour slip into the hands of foreigners. “We are not in favor of this operation, we say it with a lot of respect for Couche-Tard, for Carrefour and for all these operators who are of high quality. And we have the legal instruments at our disposal. I would rather not have to [les] to employ. I hope there will be no need to do it, ”he said on BFMTV on Friday. Remember that Carrefour is the largest private employer in France, and with around 320,000 employees worldwide.
French laws make it possible to block certain transactions affecting the agri-food industry, by virtue of the regulations on the control of foreign investments.
On Friday evening, following statements by Minister Le Maire, Reuters and Bloomberg agencies revealed that Couche-Tard had definitively given up on its attempted purchase. This purchase attempt was supported by both Ottawa and Quebec.
“We do not sell one of the major French distributors,” Bruno Le Maire added to BFMTV.
Alain Bouchard, founder and president of Couche-Tard, was then in Paris for negotiations. To convince his interlocutors, including Le Maire, he had promised billions in investments in Carrefour, as well as the maintenance of employment for two years.