After the commotion surrounding the takeover bid by Canadian group Couche-Tard, Carrefour chief Alexandre Bompard wants to turn the page. "We are back on the offensive," he states. "But I don't see any big opportunities in France right now."
"French sovereignty does not depend on food retail"
In an interview on French business broadcaster BFM, CEO Alexandre Bompard explained Carrefour's just-published financial results and also briefly revisited the takeover talks with Couche-Tard, which were blocked by the French government at a very early stage. It would have been irresponsible not to analyse the offer carefully, says the top executive, but he was not even given the chance to do so: "We were only at the beginning of the discussions. There was opposition from the French government, at a time when there was no concrete project on the table. I don't know what position my board of directors would have taken, I don't even know what I would have advised them to do."
In any case, he questions the arguments of Economy Minister Bruno Le Maire: "Nobody can imagine that the sovereignty of France depends on food retail. That is not the right argument. The pharmaceutical sector, defence... these are industries of sovereignty. That is not the case for retail." But this episode is now behind us, says Bompard: "We are back on the offensive. The page has been turned."
Asked whether it does not worry him, then, that takeover candidates for Carrefour might not soon show up, the top executive replies that the retailer does not need a takeover. The company itself has sufficient scale and resources. "We made acquisitions last year for 800 million euros to strengthen us. We will develop further. We have the resources to realise our ambitions." But he does dismiss a takeover of sector peer Casino, which has been speculated about for some time: "We don't see any opportunities to strengthen ourselves in France now. The conditions to do so have not been met. There is no question of Casino or a major acquisition in France at the moment."