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Czech Billionaire’s Consortium Gains EU Approval for Takeover of France’s Casino

 |  January 8, 2024

A consortium led by Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky has secured approval from the European Union’s antitrust authorities to assume control of the debt-laden French supermarket giant, Casino.

The announcement came on Monday, marking a significant shift in the retail landscape and the end of a 30-year era dominated by 74-year-old Jean-Charles Naouri, who controlled Casino through his listed holding company Rallye, reported Reuters.

Under the restructuring deal, current shareholders will face substantial dilution, and Kretinsky’s consortium is set to acquire a commanding 53.7% stake in Casino’s share capital. The deal entails a substantial financial injection of 1.2 billion euros into Casino, coupled with a substantial reduction of the company’s debt by 6.1 billion euros.

This move comes as part of a broader strategy to revamp Casino’s financial structure and address its considerable debt burden. The plan, however, hinges on securing additional regulatory approvals, including a crucial green light from the French finance ministry under foreign investment rules. Moreover, the consortium seeks a waiver from the stock market regulator to circumvent the initiation of formal public takeover proceedings.

In a related development, Casino had announced on December 18 that it was in exclusive talks to divest all of its major stores in France, comprising 313 hypermarkets and supermarkets. The potential buyers identified in the talks are retailers Les Mousquetaires and Auchan Retail.

While this move is positioned as a strategic effort to streamline operations, trade unions have expressed concerns about the possible dismantling of Casino as these stores are divested. In response to the consortium’s takeover and the potential sell-off of the stores, trade unions have decided to escalate their protests. On Monday, they announced the issuance of a new strike notice, scheduled to commence on January 9 and persist until February 5.

Source: Reuters