A marriage between the French retail groups Auchan and Carrefour does not seem to be completely off the table: the major family shareholders behind both companies continue to hold talks.
In search of cash
In principle, the exploratory takeover talks between Auchan and Carrefour were definitively halted in October. According to rumours, the Mulliez family, owner of Auchan, had tried to get closer earlier this year but had been turned down by Alexandre Bompard, Carrefour’s top executive.
But although both managements have given up on the project, this apparently does not apply to the family shareholders. The French business channel BFMTV believes that the Mulliez family is still in talks with the Moulin family, which is the largest shareholder in Carrefour with 11.5% of the shares and which would like to get rid of its participation – but only in exchange for cash, not shares. This is where the shoe pinches. The Mulliez family would now consider attracting a financial partner to make the deal possible.
Most observers and analysts do not consider a marriage between Auchan and Carrefour a good idea. Together, both companies would become the clear market leader in France, but it is a complex issue with limited opportunities for synergy. Moreover, there is little chance that the antitrust authorities would simply let a merger go through.