Duel of billionaires for the takeover of the Casino group

The entrance to a Casino store in Tassin-la-Demi-Lune, near Lyon, taken on July 3, 2023 (AFP/Archives/JEFF PACHOUD)

Their intentions were known but they are now officially candidates and alone on the track: the duo of billionaires Daniel Kretinsky and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière on the one hand, the trio Xavier Niel, Matthieu Pigasse and Moez-Alexandre Zouari on the other hand, are candidates the takeover of the distributor Casino, in great financial difficulty.

The two proposals will be studied by Casino’s board of directors on Tuesday, then by the group’s creditors on Wednesday.

“No decision relating to these proposals will be taken” before discussions with the creditors, assures the distributor which employs 200,000 employees worldwide, a quarter of them in France, under well-known brands such as Franprix, Monoprix or Pao de Açucar in Brazil.

Casino had indicated Tuesday morning that it would make public the details of the offers on Wednesday after the stock market. But according to a source familiar with the matter, this publication could be brought forward to Tuesday evening.

Trading in the distributor’s stock was suspended at 10:40 a.m., “at the company’s request, pending the issuance of a press release and until further notice,” according to a notice from the Euronext stock exchange operator. The price appreciated a few minutes earlier by more than 18%.

– Battle of numbers –

The Niel-Pigasse-Zouari trio said in a separate press release on Tuesday that it plans to invest “with its financial partners” 900 million euros in the Casino group. With a “long-term industrial and social project”, its offer “enjoys the support of a large group of creditors from the Casino group”, assures the trio.

Moez-Alexandre Zouari, a major franchisee of the Casino group in Ile-de-France and member of this founding trio, is called upon to take over the management of the distributor from Saint-Etienne if this offer is approved.

“With the offer that we submitted yesterday, it is more than 2 billion euros in capital increase which is carried out by 3F and its partners”, assures a spokesperson for the trio to AFP, for whom the 900 million euros of new money will come “to cover the liquidity needs of the group”.

Opposite, the duo of billionaires Daniel Kretinsky and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière plans in its offer for Casino a recapitalization of up to 1.8 billion euros in total, including 500 million euros of conversion of debt into capital, learned AFP on Tuesday from sources familiar with the matter.

The two men, already shareholders of the distributor, had previously announced that they wanted to contribute 900 million euros themselves, 750 million from Mr. Kretinsky and 150 million from Mr. Ladreit de Lacharrière.

The Czech billionaire and Mr. Ladreit de Lacharrière, friend of Casino CEO Jean-Charles Naouri, are also counting on a restructuring of Casino’s gross debt to the tune of 5 billion euros, and do not plan to sell the hypermarkets or the retailer online CDiscount, learned AFP Tuesday in the entourage of the signatories of the offer.

– Target end of July –

These equity contribution offers are part of the conciliation procedure initiated at the end of May by the group, which is in great financial difficulty. Casino is trying to renegotiate its large debt – 6.4 billion euros in net debt – but also needs equity to revive its activity.

The group had previously indicated that it hoped “to finalize an agreement in principle on the terms of the financial restructuring by July 27”. It is still necessary that the creditors of the group, large banks, funds, institutions accept.

On Monday, Casino announced that some of them were unwilling to give gifts to the group. While they had been asked not to claim the payment of the sums due during the time of the conciliation, which can last until the end of October at the latest, some refused, forcing Casino to ask the courts for “time limits for grace”.

The distributor also failed to meet, at the end of the second quarter of 2023, an obligation set by its creditors, which can be considered as a payment default. These lenders were asked not to claim their due from Casino during the conciliation, but had “not responded to the request” as of Monday, Casino said.

© 2023 AFP

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