crucial Carrefour stockholders' meeting in Paris promised to be
turbulent and lived up to all expectations. While outside the trade
unions protested, the meeting inside the Carrousel du Louvre in Paris
tried to decide on quite a few important issues.
Spanish discounter Dia goes to Madrid stock exchange
discount branch Dia's flotation had been expected to happen for some
time. In this meeting, the stockholders finally agreed to start the
process. Blue Capital, in which major shareholders Bernard Arnault
(LVMH) and Colony Capital (private investment fund) cooperate, had been
trying to force this move past the trade unions for a while.
President De Sèze leaves, Olofsson takes over his tasks
second item came to more surprise, as Amaury de Sèze, president of the
board of directors, announced the merger of his job and that of the
general director into a new “Président Directeur Général”, which will be
Lars Olofsson. Exit De Sèze, in a rather unexpected way...
is true that Proxinvest, a group advising a number of shareholders, had
asked De Sèze to step down because he had not been forceful enough to
balance out Blue Capital. De Sèze's final act was to defend Blue Capital
– holding 20% of Carrefour's votes, as having “a long term vision” and
“just as eager to win this battle as everyone else”.
'Almighty' Olofsson: heavily trusted or easy scapegoat?
his new competences, Olofsson (aged 59) is virtually almighty at
Carrefour and he could force his restructuring plans through the
hierarchy. Analysts are not completely certain about this move, pointing
out that either “Olofsson has earned Blue Capital's trust” and “this is
a move to express their trust in Olofsson, hoping the market will
follow”, or that “Olofsson will be the only scapegoat if things go
is unsure whether or not Olofsson has really earned the major
stockholder's trust, as the two have been fighting about selling out the
real estate branch as well. To make sure things go their way, Blue
Capital have placed one of their trusted people, Sébastien Bazin, at
Olofsson's right hand as vice president of the board of directors.
Carrefour to cut 4.5 billion before 2014
Olofsson did seem more confident than ever, confirming his will to
“carry out the strategic plan, even when in difficult circumstances.” He
repeated he wants to cut 4.5 billion euro in three years and roll out
the Carrefour Planet scheme even faster than expected.
He did however
point out that the situation at Carrefour remains very difficult, with
the many changes at the top at Carrefour France, the social tension, the
delay of Carrefour Property's flotation and the crashing share value
(-35% since September). Thus, he said that he “understands people are
worried, but they need to see the long term view of the projects” and
was sure that “the Carrefour Planet-plan is capable of really turning
the tide for us”.
Carrefour stays in Brazil, no news about Casino-partner
asked about the controversial plans to invest in Brazilian supermarket
giants Pão de Açucar (currently twinned with French rivals Casino),
Olofsson did not respond clearly, but stated merely that “Carrefour will
not leave Brazil”.
the meeting, it was also announced that Société Générale had increased
its participation in Carrefour to 7.9%, making it the second investor in
the chain. Insiders however do not see this as a permanent move, but
merely as a short term transaction with shares and derivatives that just
happened to take them over the important 5% threshold – the reason why
the move had to be announced publicly.
Shares, down 35% since September, now +1.7%
the plans and moves that were expressed and concluded during this
meeting, had quite a meagre short time result: Carrefour's shares went
up 1.7%, less than the stock exchange's total of 2.04% and nowhere
nearly enough to solve the 35% crash the shares went through since