• By The Financial District

CANADIAN STORE CHAIN DROPS BID FOR FRANCE’S CARREFOUR SUPERMARTS

Canada’s Alimentation Couche-Tard has dropped its 16.2 billion euro ($19.6 billion) bid to acquire European retailer Carrefour SA after the takeover plan ran into stiff opposition from the French government, two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The decision to end merger talks came after a meeting on Friday between French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Couche-Tard’s founder and chairman, Alain Bouchard, the sources said, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is confidential. Couche-Tard and Carrefour declined to comment, Pamela Barbaglia and Gwénaëlle Barzic reported for Reuters.


Earlier on Friday, the Associated Press (AP) also reported that France ruled out any sale of grocer Carrefour on food security grounds, prompting the Canadian firm and its allies to mount a last-ditch attempt to salvage the deal.


“Food security is strategic for our country so that’s why we don’t sell a big French retailer. My answer is extremely clear: We are not in favor of the deal. The no is polite but it’s a clear and final no,” Le Maire said.


Couche-Tard had hoped to win state blessing by offering commitments on both jobs and France’s food supply chain and by keeping the merged entity listed in both Paris and Toronto, with Carrefour boss Alexandre Bompard and his Couche-Tard counterpart Brian Hannasch leading it as co-CEOs, one of the sources said.


The plan included a pledge to keep the new entity’s global strategic operations in France and having French nationals on its board, he said. Couche-Tard, advised by Rothschild, was also going to pump about 3 billion euros of investments into the French retailer which was working on the deal with Lazard.


The proposal was widely backed by Carrefour which employs 105,000 workers in France, its largest market, making it the country’s biggest private-sector employer.


France’s rejection of the deal less than 24 hours after talks were confirmed sparked grumbling in some business circles over how French President Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker, is turning away foreign investment.


Some politicians and bankers said the pushback could tarnish Macron’s pro-business image, while others highlighted that the COVID-19 crisis had forced more than one country to redefine its strategic national interests.



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