This time it is final: the French government rejects a 'clear and final' veto against the merger proposed by the Canadian Couche-Tard with the French giant Carrefour, to the chagrin of business circles and those who are calling for consolidation in the sector.
'My position is not polite, but it is clear and final': The French Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire this Friday showered the hopes of those in favor of the 'rapprochement' envisaged by Couche-Tard and Carrefour, explaining on BFMTV and RMC that 'we do not sell any of the major French distributors '.
This position is all the more daunting given that the government has the power to block buy-out operations in the food industry through regulations that control foreign investment.
'Id rather not have to use it,' added Bruno Le Maire, yet stated that he would not hesitate 'if necessary'.
A cold between France and Canada
Bruno Le Maire had the opportunity this Friday to explain his position by telephone to the founder of Couche-Tard Alain Bouchard, who is present in Paris, and his counterpart in Quebec, Pierre Fitzgibbon, said Bercy.
On Thursday evening, Pierre Fitzgibbon told some journalists that his government had asked the French authorities that 'Couche-Tard could be a good owner'.
Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada, declined this Friday to comment on the operation on the grounds that 'discussions were ongoing' and limited himself to saying that his governments role is to run his business Landes 'even when they wanted to expand in the world.'
In any case, the position of the French government has caught a cold. 'The Secretary of Commerce is not afraid of branding the food distribution sector as strategic and making fun of it like its predecessor at yogurt (i.e. Danone) had known a similar honor,' the firms financial analysts deliberated AlphaValue, alluding to the states refusal to let Pepsi buy Danone in 2005.
If the sector is strategic, also noted Jacques Creyssel, General Delegate of the Federation of Commerce and Distribution (of which Carrefour is a member), 'decisions are needed to ensure that this sector, which is the largest employer in France, can do it'. consolidate and survive '.
At BFM Business on Friday he called for investments 'on a massive scale in the coming years so that the business with Amazon and Alibaba are competitive'.
The unions were not convinced either
According to the daily Les Echos, Couche-Tard had mentioned in the initial talks an investment of 3 billion euros over five years to promote the development of Carrefour, a figure that was confirmed by a person familiar with the file.
This is not enough to convince the government or the unions of the Carrefour group, which for their part believed that 'the particularly social consequences of such an operation could be catastrophic for workers,' said FO (the groups first association).
In another press release tweeted on Friday, the Snec / CFE-CGC (National Union for the Management of the Carrefour Group, 4th in terms of representativeness) 'wonders at the Carrefour Groups silence and Couches management methods -Tard '. and asks Carrefour to 'communicate urgently with its employees'.