Carrefour employees did not expect to wake up on Wednesday when they learned that a Canadian group, with turnover half as much as theirs, coveted their company. The specialist in Quebec “convenience stores” Couche-Tard has nevertheless addressed the French brand. “A non-binding letter of intent for a friendly reconciliation”. A dark outline of engagement for the unions, which draw up a bitter report. “The strategy of the director, Alexandre Bompard, which he promised us so glorious, restructuring after restructuring, is a failure since the group has become ‘operable'”, chokes Frank Gaulin, national CGT union delegate.
Employee representatives can take a breather. The Minister of the Economy, Bruno Le Maire, said very quickly, Wednesday evening, that he was not “Favorable” on the sale of a “Essential link in the food security of the French”, recalling that the 2019 Pact Law allowed the government to veto foreign investments in strategic sectors. “This is the first time that we have agreed with Le Maire”, quirks Philippe Allard, CGT group union representative. However, the doubts of employees are far from over. If Carrefour did not seem to be at the initiative of this merger, its great interest in this project worries. “The big question is the nature of the operation. We hope that it is not purely financial ”, indicates Sylvain Macé, CFDT group union representative. The Canadian specialist in convenience stores opened wide a golden exit door to the shareholders of the French distributor. The stock market valuation flush with the group’s daisies (91 euros per share in 1999, barely 17 euros Thursday) is far from the standards of Bernard Arnault, boss of LVMH. New money would also do the business of the Moulin family, owner of Galeries Lafayette, in great difficulty. As for Abilio Diniz, third reference shareholder, he has started to divest part of his stakes in Carrefour Brazil. “Couche-tard offers them to buy them back at 20, they are necessarily interested”, continues Sylvain Macé.
The unions fear that employment will again bear the brunt of this postponed quest for added value. “This attempted merger is also a sign that restructuring has made the company more attractive. Carrefour risks continuing in this direction ”, Sylvain Macé fears. The group announced in 2019 a departure plan for 3,000 employees.