Casino Group: Moez-Alexandre Zouari harbors the hope of finding a compromise with Daniel Kretinsky

Moez-Alexandre Zouari, in his office in Paris, May 12, 2023.

What will the Casino Group look like in the future? If no one risks a prognosis on the matter, its current form seems to have survived due to the crushing weight of its debt: 6.4 billion euros at the end of 2022, including 4.5 billion in France, to which s add more than three billion in debt for the group’s parent company, Rallye.

Rallye, as well as the cascade of holding companies through which Jean-Charles Naouri controls the distributor, had benefited in May 2019 from a placement in safeguard proceedings and have been the subject since the end of April of an amicable procedure for renegotiate it. For its part, Casino said it was considering a conciliation procedure, which could be the case from May 19 if its creditors agree.

In this context fraught with uncertainty for a group which has brands well known to the French (Monoprix, Franprix, Leader Price, etc.) and which employs 200,000 people worldwide, including a large quarter in France, several major players intend to influence the future of Casino.

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The best known is undoubtedly the Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky (indirect shareholder of the World), which proposed to Casino to inject 750 million euros through a reserved capital increase of more than one billion euros in total, which would cause Jean-Charles Naouri to lose control of this empire. The historical leader “could retain a prominent place”he however took care to specify.

Avoiding the “Carnage” of “Judicial Reorganization”

But there is also Moez-Alexandre Zouari, who has been negotiating for several months to integrate the struggling distributor’s French business. The general manager of Teract (Gamm Vert, Jardiland, Boulangeries Louise, etc.), defended in an interview with several media published on Sunday May 14, his “industrial project”and invited Daniel Kretinsky to work together.

According to Moez-Alexandre Zouari – also a major franchisee of the Casino group in Ile-de-France – the Czech billionaire’s offer is, as it stands, insufficient “if tomorrow morning when he arrives he does not have Intermarché to consolidate purchases, an industrial project that will give meaning to the dynamic, a structured project…”

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Teract, whose majority shareholder is the agrifood giant InVivo, has around the table of its board of directors the founder of Free, Xavier Niel, and the investment banker, Matthieu Pigasse (individual shareholders of the World)At the end of April, the third chain of supermarkets in France, Intermarché, joined the discussions held since February with Casino, and supposed to succeed by the end of May.

Casino “is a hundred-year-old, solid, robust box that needs to be awakened, (…) it would be carnage for this group to go into receivership when there is a solid base and building a local network like its today would take decades and billions of euros”, pleaded Moez-Alexandre Zouari. Its project is to integrate the entire agri-food chain, from agricultural producers gathered in the 188 cooperatives that make up InVivo, to the supermarkets of the Casino group, including industrial processors.

Also read the column: Article reserved for our subscribers “The alliance of the Casino brands and InVivo garden centers would be a form of consolidation in the face of the slump in the market”

“Vertical Consolidation”

“This vertical consolidation is for us the solution to meet the challenges of tomorrow morning” and give back ” sense “ to the distribution trades, he pleaded. Negotiations between industrial suppliers and supermarkets turn into a rat race each year and constitute, he argues, a “masquerade where the big industrialists always have the last word”.

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To ease the financial pressure weighing on Casino’s commercial activity, he intends to detach the French stores from the group to bring them to Teract, only taking on a debt of around two billion euros with them, according to a source. close.

With Daniel Kretinsky, “there is no reason that we cannot talk to each other since he believes in this company”said Moez-Alexandre Zouari, who would be “glad that someone seasoned” like Czech “join us, which we are looking forward to”.

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The World with AFP

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