Spanish discounter Dia wants to get rid of its French stores with its former owner, Carrefour, and its grand rival Casino already fighting to get the stores. Casino wants to bump Lidl of its perch.
For sale: 888 stores and 9 warehouses
Dia has officially announced it has "made the necessary steps to sell off the entirety of its French activities", as it states in a press release containing the first quarter's numbers. In it, it has also mentioned the French activities as a "discontinuing activity".
It is no secret that Dia struggles in France as its turnover dropped nearly 11 % last year and it had a 25 million euro operational loss, which is why there have been long-standing rumours about the possible sale of Dia France.
Labour union Force Ouvrière had already announced that the 888 French stores and 9 warehouses were for sale, with BNP Paribas as the one who apparently has to accompany the sale. According to several anonymous sources, the more than 7,000 French employees should know by the end of June who will become their new employer.
It is likely to be either Carrefour or Casino, the French papers state. Both distribution giants would love to get their hands on the 600,000 sqm of store space, mainly located on the busy Paris-Lyon-Marseille axis.
Leader Price larger than Lidl?
The Casino group seems the more likely candidate because its boss, Jean-Charles Naouri, has been clamoring for years that he wants his discount formula (Leader Price) to become France's largest price breaker with at least 1,000 stores. If it could integrate Dia France, it would instantly have 1,650 stores and 1.25 million sqm of store space.
That would mean the Casino subsidiary would immediately become the largest in France, just ahead of the current market leader Lidl (1,570 stores and 1.1 million sqm) and miles ahead of Aldi (925 stores and 617,000 sqm). The office of fair trading may step in though, as Leader Price would gain a hugely dominant position in several regions, which may force Casino to sell off stores.
Back to Carrefour?
It is a surprise that Carrefour is interested once more as it was the one that split off its discounter subsidiary in 2011 (when Lars Olofsson was in charge) and launched it on the Madrid stock exchange. Times (and CEO's) have changed because under the direction of George Plassat, Carrefour has made a comeback. The new CEO is apparently open to the idea that smaller Dia stores are integrated into its network of neighborhood stores.
The move would also increase Carrefour's presence in southeastern France and the French capital, two regions that have not been Carrefour's strongest. The company was also one of the candidates to buy the 55 Parisian stores Casino had to get rid of after it had bought Monoprix, but it failed to attract the stores.
If it managed to get the Dia stores, it would pull away from its closest competitor, E. Leclerc, as it currently feels it edging ever closer.
World's third largest discounter
Dia, founded in 1979 in Spain, has been on the Madrid stock exchange since 2011 and has 6,914 stores in seven countries (Spain, France, Portugal, Turkey, Argentina, Brazil and China). In 2013, Dia employs 48,000 people and had a yearly turnover of nearly 11.5 billion euro, which means it is the third largest discounter, trailing German duo Aldi and Lidl.
According to our French colleagues of LSA, an interested party would have to pay 150 to 200 million euro for DIA France and that is exactly what the LSA both Carrefour and Casino will offer something along those lines.