Régis Schultz, the man who has to make electronics group Darty grow again, has started his difficult task a week earlier than expected: normally he was to start on 1 May. His first day on the job was dominated by rumours stating that main shareholder Knight Vinke is looking for a buyer for the ailing retailer.
Not at headquarters in Paris
Régis Schultz, who gained a lot of experience at British Kingfisher and French But, was to start as new CEO of Darty on 1 May, the British owner of electronics chains Darty (France), Vanden Borre (Belgium) and BCC (the Netherlands), but apparently he could not or would not wait any longer.
Right from the start Schultz made a statement by shedding the past: he did not go to an office at the headquarters in the centre of Paris, but at Bondy (Seine-Saint-Denis), headquarters of Darty France. That is a bold statement, as the French subsidiary is the problem child of the troubled electronics group.
What was supposed to be a quiet first day for the new CEO, turned out completely different: the entire day rumours about a possible sale of Darty were buzzing around. According to French newspaper Le Figaro, investment fund Knight Vinke has asked business bank Goldman Sachs to be on the look for a possible buyer of its shares. With 25% Knight Vinke is the largest shareholder of the British electronics company.
The newspaper even stated that CEO of Carrefour Plassat is thinking about a takeover. The synergy between Carrefour en Darty could give the electronics departments of the hypermarkets a new boost and it would let the company profit from Darty’s expertise of the growing internet market.
The price (Darty is worth about 300 million euro on the stock exchange) and the timing (a takeover of that size would be difficult to swallow for shareholders of Carrefour that is itself undergoing a restructuring) are said to have made Plassat bide his time.
Capital loss of 82 million euro
Brand new CEO Schultz said repeatedly that “Darty is always for sale, because the company is listed on the exchange and does not have a controlling shareholder”. Still many waited for Eric Knight of Knight Vinke to formally deny all rumours: “Knight Vinke denies it has given Goldman Sachs or anybody else a mandate concerning its investment in Darty”.
According to French business paper Les Echos Eric Knight and Régis Schultz met up two weeks ago in Zurich. Knight is said to have pushed for some serious costs savings: Schultz choosing to station at Darty France instead of in Paris can be seen in that light.
Schultz will have the difficult task to make his biggest shareholder happy again. When Knight Vinke joined the British electronics group in 2010, the share of Kesa Electricals was worth more than 100 pence: today that is barely half.
Today Knight Vinke is looking at a capital loss of about 82 million euro and all this despite restructurings made by the group under pressure of the shareholder. For instance, the sale of British Comet for two symbolic pounds, the divestment of Turkish, Italian and Spanish activities and the recent changes at the top of the company.